In America today, common and easily accessed options for body disposition seem to boil down to two: cremation or burial.
But do you realize how many other options you currently have? Especially if you’re open to not ever receiving remains back, there are more choices than you might understand.
- If you’re close enough to a medical school, you can always consider donating your body to train future doctors. This option is often free to the donor, but restrictions might cause bumps–things such as certain cancers, trauma, and even jaundice can disqualify a donor, as can proximity–often you must be 250 miles or closer. This option does usually allow for returned cremated remains at the end of the process, often years in the future. If you choose to make this your final plan, be wise and write a Plan B, in case your body is deferred.
- One popular option in my Central Texas location is the body ranch at Texas State. We’re lucky to have this facility close, as an option! Potential donors can be accepted with very few restrictions; donor families get the satisfaction of knowing their loved ones will help train forensic scientists and law enforcement, which could help crime victims for decades to come. This does come with downsides, though: because of the nature of the work, you will get no remains back ever–even after the bodies have done their job decomposing for science, the bones are preserved and kept (along with pictures of the body in life) to help learners train in reconstruction. Also (and I’ve personally encountered this locally with a client family), because of the nature of the lab (school-based, not privately funded), volunteers are used to retrieve bodies, and pick-up scheduling limitations may require donors to pay for storage costs ahead of the pick up.
- Another totally free option is whole body donation. Whole body donation typically involves fewer restrictions or limitations (positive HIV/AIDS status often being one). Missing pieces are okay–actually, donors are usually encouraged to be organ donors first, and then have the rest of their body given over to whole body donation after the usable organs have been taken. Bodies in the whole-body program typically are used in component parts for testing and furthering medical knowledge, although details of exactly what are rarely known. Families of whole body donors do receive cremated remains back, typically weeks to months after the donation.
Curious? Intrigued? Looking for a low-cost option? Looking for a way to make a final difference with your body? Here are some links that will help you learn more:
Locally, in the Central Texas area, the following are options:
- Texas A&M Health Sciences Willed Body Program
- UT San Antonio Health Sciences Body Donation Program
- Texas State San Marcos Forensic Anthropology Body Donation Program
You can read more about your national options here:
What do you think? Are these alternatives viable options for you or your loved ones? Does the idea of rotting for science or being used to train and test make it better or worse?
Have questions? Confused by the options? Just want to know more?
Email me, or leave a comment, and let’s talk!