Articles

By: John and Dee Ingram

Q. I have decided to donate my body to science after my
death to save my family from the expense of a funeral.
How can I go about doing this?
A. The decision to donate ones body so that others may
benefit is a wonderful way to be remembered. There are
two ‘types’ of donation- ‘partial’ and ‘full’ donations. A
partial donation is the donation of organs and/or tissues
for the transplant benefit of another. You may decide to
donate one or all of your organs (bones, skin, heart, eyes,
lungs, liver, spleen, and/or kidney). These donations, once
removed shortly after death can then be used for a waiting
transplant recipient. The skin (taken from the thighs and
the back of the arms) is used for new born babies and/
or burn victims during the healing process. This type of
donation does not affect the viewing of the deceased and
leaves the option of a traditional funeral service open to
your family. A full body donation is the donation of ones
body to be used for scientific research and purpose. While
this option is as equally honorable as the first option there
maybe long term negative emotional effects from the view
of the deceased’s family. Many families may encounter
psychological, personal, and concerns that prevent this
alternative to burial or cremation from being widely accepted.
Please talk with your family about your decision
and even share this article with them so that they are fully
knowledgeable about your decision. In addition, a limited
demand for body donation by scientific and medical programs
and the requirements of the various medical institutions
that accept bodies for research and education may
make body donation an unworkable alternative for many.
Funeral Homes may represent this program publicly as a
cremation at ‘no charge’ to the family- only for the deceased
to be turned down for the program at the time of
death, leaving the family with only a ‘payable’ option of
cremation. Please be aware of the requirements before
the death occurs by calling the institution direct for their
donation requirements. Those who make arrangements
for the donation of their bodies should have alternative
plans for disposition in the events that the institution
declines to accept their donated body because of it’s
condition or because it does not meet the institution’s
needs at the time of death.
There are eleven medical or scientific institutions in Texas
(I have listed five below) that accept bodies for the
research and education purposes generally refer to body
donation as a “willed-body program.” Each institution
has its own requirements for the condition of the donated
body, the age of the deceased, and the distance from the
facility it will have to travel to pick up a donated body.
Some institutions, for example, will not accept bodies
that have endured severe trauma or surgery, have missing
organs or limbs, are excessively obese, have suffered a
spreading malignancy, or had an infectious disease at the
time of death. Some facilities will reject a body if death
has occurred by suicide, burns, or drowning. Usually, the
institution will pay all of the costs of special embalming
and transportation for a set distance from the facilities.
After the institution has completed its use of the body, the
remains are cremated and can be returned to a designated
family member if prior arrangements have been made,
or scattered at a memorial site maintained by the facility
or in international waters in the Gulf of Mexico. Because
each institution has its own criteria for the acceptance of a
body, those interested in such a disposition should contact
the facilities directly to learn their particular requirements.
Some facilities accept applications for body donations
only for a limited period each year; others have an open
enrollment policy. The following list provides names and
telephone numbers of five willed-body programs operating
in Texas.
The University of Texas-Medical Branch at Galveston,
Texas 409-772-1293
Texas Tech University Health Science Center- School of
Medicine Lubbock, Texas 806-743-2700
University of Texas Health and Science Center at San Antonio,
Texas 210-567-3900
University of North Texas Health and Science Center at
Fort Worth, Texas 817-735-2047
Texas A& M University Health Science Center – College
of Medicine at College Station, Texas 979-845-4913
(If you have a question that you would like answered in
this column, please write to Ask The Director c/o Goggans
Funeral Home P.O. Box 2218 Quinlan, Texas 75474).