Many people consider making anatomical donations. This means donating your body to a medical school or research facility. It is a noble gesture. You are essentially helping future doctors become better doctors or helping researchers find better ways to fight diseases, like cancer, that plague humans and destroy families. Body donation can be your last gift to your family, your community, and the world.
In New Hampshire, there is only one facility that is approved for accepting body donations, Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine. Most medical schools accept body donations from a very small geographical radius, typically within that state, so donating to schools outside of New Hampshire may not be an option.
Research facilities also allow organ donations. The largest of these is ScienceCare. The process begins at the time of passing, when a family member calls in and completes a brief medical screening. That information is compared to various research facilities’ criteria to see if there is a match. If a match is found, then the body is accepted.
Most medical schools and research facilities will pay for all the costs of donation, including transport to the facility. Afterwards, the facility pays for removal of the body, cremation, transportation, and will return the cremated remains to a family member or designated representative. Some even pay for filing of the death certificate. This relieves the family of the financial burdens of cremation or funeral expenses as well as making a significant contribution to science and mankind. If the facility does not pay these fees, ask if the organization will reimburse the family for all or part of the costs. Some will do that, but you may have to inquire about it to initiate that process.
It is important to understand that body donation is not the same as organ or tissue donation. In many cases, a person who is an organ or tissue donor cannot donate their body to science; most facilities will only accept a completely intact body. This is also true if there has been an autopsy. Make sure you fully understand all the terms prior to making the decision to donate your body, especially if you want to donate your organs. It may come down to making a choice between the two.
Body donation is typically not a decision that is made after death. Most facilities require that the person who is donating their body make the arrangements in advance and file with the organization. In other words, the person who is donating their body must personally register with the facility in advance of their death. Depending on the school or facility, the form may have to be signed by two or three family members as well as the person who is making the donation. This is to ensure that there are no problems after death and that the family is on board with the deceased’s decision to donate their body.
There are no guarantees, though, that your body will be accepted, even if you have made all the arrangements in advance. If you don’t meet the current criteria for donation, or if a match cannot be established for a research facility, or if the facilities have enough donors, then you will need to have alternative arrangements in place.
The Cremation Society of New Hampshire is a caring, cost effective alternative in case body donation does not work out. It only costs $30 to become a member, which grants you access to our reduced member pricing for cremation services. Don’t leave your family members with the burden of making alternative arrangements because you did not plan for the unexpected. You may not need us, but isn’t it good to know we’re here for you just in case you do?