What Are the Pros and Cons of Donating Your Body to Science?

Updated on January 3, 2018
Austinstar profile image

Lela has worked in medical laboratory sciences, as an MLT and then a ASCP, for over 30 years. Her B.A. is in journalism.

What can I do with my remains?

As we all can guess, body farms cannot operate without bodies. Med students need cadavers to 'practice' medicine on. The U.S. Government accepts bodies for training purposes (Yes, even for live simulation target practice).

There is a market for bodies and body parts. Donating organs for transplant is fairly common these days. I have heard that in third world countries, some people are paid for donating a working kidney and it is removed even while they are still using it.

Donating your body can save your family a lot of time and expense. It is important to prepare your family if you plan on donating your body. They may or may not want to support you.

Also, plan well in advance for your choice of where to donate your body and how it will be used. What will become of the remains? Who will receive the remains? How long will your body be with the facility? Where and how long will the body be stored during the "usage" time. How will the body be transported to the facility? What paperwork is required?

Pros and Cons of body donation

Type of Body Donation
Medical Cadaver
Train future doctors which will save lives in the future
Disrespect? of person
Medical school will assume most of the financial burden
Remains are usually returned cremated which may contradict religious beliefs
May contribute to future medical treatments that save lives
The decision to donate is difficult and families may not agree or cooperate with your wishes
Some tissues may be harvested and used to help others before the body is sent to a training facility
There are medical and legal issues that must be solved well ahead of time
Body Farm
Training of criminal scientists
Body may or may not be returned to family
Training of Anthopologists
Infectious disease deaths are not accepted
Body may be instrumental in solving crimes
Donation paperwork may require your life story with photos and unusual permissions
Transportation of remains is usually available
Body may be used for traumatic injury demos and may be on display for months or years
Military use
Body is used to test safety equipment and may save a soldiers life
Body is usually traumatized in some way during testing
Other Institutions
Body may be used for training in a variety of schools such as mortician school, car safety demos
Body may be traumatized during testing

Body Farm

Body farms use cadavers to study the effects of the environment on human and animal bodies.
Body farms use cadavers to study the effects of the environment on human and animal bodies. | Source

Tips for making your body donation decision.

Always discuss your wishes as soon as you can with your family. They will most likely be surprised and maybe hurt to learn that you do not want a funeral.

Research all of your options before choosing the recipient of your body. Get informed about what they will do with your remains. Discuss this with your family also.

Discuss your decision with your priest, pastor or other religious leader. There are some religions where body donation is not acceptable.

Plan for any expenses involved with your donation. Some places will pay for the expenses, some will not. Some places will pay for cremation and or burial. Some places will transport your body at their expense. Some places will ask that your body be delivered at your expense.

Get everything spelled out in writing and properly witnessed and possibly notarized. Keep the paperwork in a file called "In the event of my death" along with your last will and testament. Give a copy to your lawyer or executor of your estate and remains.

What will you do in the event of your death?

Are you considering donating your body to science?

See results

© 2012 Lela

Comments - What are your reasons for donating or not donating?

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    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 13 days ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Mary, those are very good reasons for body donation. I know epileptics will thank you!

    • profile image

      Mary Downing 13 days ago

      My reasons for donating is I have Epilepsy and thought Neurologist students would love to study my brain. Dr does not know what has caused my seizures and I want to help other patients in the future plus I have depression.

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 2 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Definitely write your will. It the only way to make sure you "rest in peace". Have a great life and then have a great afterlife!

    • Jack Hagan profile image

      Jack Hagan 2 years ago from New York

      Well thanks for letting me know about this fact. I think I should consider writing the wish to be buried in my will and also tell my close family members with my desire.

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 2 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Jack, usually, bodies are cremated after the science is over with, so you would still become ashes. You should opt for a burial instead.

    • Jack Hagan profile image

      Jack Hagan 2 years ago from New York

      I would like to donate my body to science instead of being cremated. I personally don't like the cremation process and instead of being burned after my death, I will prefer donating my body for experiments. By doing this, I can make sure they are not going to turn me into ashes.

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Diogenes is indeed a naughty one. Maybe he should have it bronzed?

    • bac2basics profile image

      Anne 5 years ago from Spain

      Hi Star. What a very interesting article. I know a lady who donated her body after death. And when my husband died, the more I went to visit him in the funeral home, the more I realised that he was no longer there, his body was just a shell. I have had a donor card for years but don´t know if I could go the whole hog and leave my body to be messed about with..it is something to think about though, specially if it could help someone else.

      PS Diogenese comment made me laugh..he´s a naughty lad and no mistake.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 6 years ago from south Florida

      You summed it all up very well, Lela. The good part is some body or some institution benefits. The bad part is . . . you have to die first!

    • profile image

      lorraine kay 6 years ago

      My mom donated her body to a medical university at no cost. We will not get it back. We will honor her wishes. Good info here. Voted up.

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Hey Austin - my uncle checked into this and they wanted 600 dollars to take his remains. He was a bit angry and said forget it. Lol. Not sure which place, I told my husband to just throw me out in the BBQ pit. I'm not gonna care anymore seriously but I do not want a funeral, I hate them. I told my kids when they asked I'd rather they have a party and play my favorite songs - like The Ballroom Blitz:) hahahaha!

      Bob! Pfffft! Hahahaha!

    • Nan Mynatt profile image

      Nan Mynatt 6 years ago from Illinois

      Good and clear explanation on the subject. I believe that the body is to rest in peace!

    • profile image

      alastar packer 6 years ago

      I dunno Lela, yes, it's just an inanimate hunk of you know what, but still, there ought to be some respect and decency shown. Out and out abuse is probably rare but believe me it occurs more than it should.

    • Jane Bovary profile image

      Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore

      Hi Austen,

      Spotted you in the feed. I intend to have my head cryogenically frozen to be awakened at some point for the benefit of posterity...no just kidding!

      I do have an organ donor card but frankly they can do what they like with my body after I'm gone...I suggest I be ground down for fertiliser, since I strongly suspect my organs will be less than desirable (too much hedonism).


    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 6 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Yes, Alastar, I also strongly recommend that you check out exactly what the "usage" is going to be of your body. It can get pretty gruesome. However, if you believe that your essence is no longer inside your body, then it really doesn't matter what they do. Your loved ones could have nightmares over some of the treatments that cadavers go through.

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Lela I read this through and that book Stiff is pretty good. How about the hidden videos on the donated medical ones. Mutilated, and I mean badly mutilated by some who laugh at breast implants and such. Not saying there all like this but every one should get all the facts when considering donation. Personally won't chose to lighten up any scalpel welders day.

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 6 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Well Bob, be sure to leave specific instructions about how you want that thing stuffed and mounted!

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      I intend to donate my penis in the hope it will continue making lovely girls happy as it once did when part of me.

      (Sorry Star!)

      Good article