Something to Think About

"I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Matters of Grave Concern... or What should we do with the Body?*

What do you want done with your body after you die?

This is a very personal question I feel we should all ask ourselves well in advance of our deaths, if at all possible.  Our family members will appreciate knowing what we would prefer beforehand instead of having to muddle through after our deaths.  They will have enough difficult decisions to make at that time. The most responsible thing to do is to discuss this with your loved ones well in advance of your death so they know what you would have wanted and so that you can answer any questions they might have.

It's a question that I think about occasionally but it popped back up in my mind recently with the death of my boyfriend's aunt over the weekend.  Her family chose cremation.  I'm not sure what they will do with her ashes.

I've absolutely decided that I don't want my body buried in a box in the ground.  That seems like such a waste of space, money and it serves no purpose.  I thought, perhaps, cremation would be the solution but... what would I want done with my ashes?  I certainly don't want them in an urn on someone's mantle.  I don't expect my loved ones to spread them anywhere.  That solution creates problems, as well.

Then it occurred to me: Whole body donation.  I could donate my entire body to science. Medical students need cadavers to practice on, after all.

Or, I thought, what about those places that they call Body Farms - where cadavers are left to deteriorate naturally in various situations for scientific study.  That appeals to me, as well.

It appears that there are four such forensic facilities in the US:  University of Tennessee Research Facility, Western Carolina University, Texas State University, and Sam Houston State University.  The University of Tennessee seems to have the most extensive program and is the closest to me but they will only pay to transport your body if you are within 100 miles of the facility.  I've no idea how much it would cost to transport my body 530 miles and across several state lines but I imagine that it would not be cheap nor simple. I'm not sure it would be right to expect my loved ones to go through all that paperwork.

(Note:  I tried to use Google to get an idea of cost but I was unsuccessful.  If I'm picked up and questioned by the authorities we'll know all know why and that what we Google is being monitored by the government. Just saying...)

If you do live within a reasonable distance of these universities, you might want to consider donating your body to them. Of course, it would be best to check out their requirements and contract them ahead of time.

Well, alright. Back to my first idea. A friend on Google + pointed out that some medical schools - he mentioned Harvard - might have all the cadavers they need and that I might want to research this.  I did and I  found Science Care, an organization that coordinates donations of bodies to where they are needed.  This sounds promising.  I checked the requirements and it seems that I am within the weight  and length limits so this is a distinct possibility and an added motivation to keep my weight down where it is or less.  I wouldn't want to be too obese for donation!  The only issue would be if I die of a contagious disease or if they wouldn't need me for some reason.  I guess a plan B will also have to be in order.

There are several organizations who receive whole body donations.  The one I mention here is accredited by both the American Association of Tissue Banks and the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education. - and is a A+ member of the Better Business Bureau.  I'm not sure how important this is but I feel better knowing that a company that would handle my remains has some sort of accreditation. Other organizations may be accredited, as well.  I didn't check every possibility.

In any event, I have some ideas to start with and will continue to research the possibilities so that I can fine-tune my requests for my next of kin. Do give this some thought yourself.  Even if you are sure that you would prefer burial, there are still arrangements that you can make ahead of time that will ease the burden on those left behind.

Even in death we can be considerate of others, can't we?
*Nope, nothing is sacred here.  Excuse my possible lack of taste but I find the title funny!

Image obtained here


  1. Have you talked about organ donation too?


    You can be cremated and have your ashes buried in a teeny plot with an ickle headstone. I would like to donate my body or my brain to medical research but there are a lot of conditions to doing so. Otherwise I'd like to be buried, in a cardboard box.

    1. I have, indeed, considered organ donation - in fact I have the organ donation designation on my driver's license and my family members know what my wishes are as far as that goes.

      It seems that, even if some of your organs are donated, there are still places that could use the rest of your body for science. :-) So, if the circumstances are right for my organs to be used by someone else, that would happen first - then the rest of me could go elsewhere.

      And yes. Plan B would be cremation. I suppose my cremated remains could be buried as that is done here. So that is an option. :-)