Some Compelling Reasons to Consider Donation your Body to Science

There is no doubt that anatomical donation is a benevolent gift that has the power to advance medical research and impact the quality of medical care and breakthroughs for generations to come. But, are there other reasons why someone would want to donate their body to science?

Reason #1: Donating a body to science saves lives.

When a body is donated to science it can help save lives in many ways. Educational institutions use cadavers to help explain anatomy and physiology to medical students. This gives the students the experience they need to understand human anatomy. More importantly, it allows doctors, who throughout their practice, need to stay current with the advancements that result from innovative medical breakthroughs.

Whole body donations are also used by practicing surgeons for surgical training and technique development. Exploring to find better ways to perform procedures like transplants, joint replacements, and minimally invasive surgical techniques.

Having access to cadavers gives all of them the experience necessary to learn how to implant a device in a patient’s spine, heart or brain. Think about it. Wouldn’t you prefer having a surgeon who has practiced a procedure on a cadaver first, before performing it on you for the first time?

Researchers use the human body to not only see how diseases impact a body – they search for causes, which leads to the pursuit for cures. They have discovered reasons why humans develop cancer, they use human brains to help them gain a deeper understanding of how the brain works to help treat brain disorders, and they use the human heart to gain insight into the treatment of heart disease.

EMT’s can gain invaluable hands-on experience in the latest life-saving techniques and technologies, using this fresh knowledge to treat the patients in their communities. Forensic investigations use human bodies to help them identify time of death by studying the decay that occurs to a body over a length of time and to help them learn how a person died.

As a donor, you make this critical education and training possible through your selfless and generous gift.

Reason #2: “Paying it forward.”

Many people choose to donate their body to medical science because they value education, a majority of them are educators themselves. Others become donors because of the medical treatment and care that they personally experienced. They feel that a continual evolution of medical breakthroughs is imperative to improving the human condition and want to do everything they can to support research and innovation.

Reason #3: A no-cost & compassionate alternative to traditional funeral arrangements.

Another compelling reason people select body donation is to relieve their families from the financial and emotional burdens associated with a funeral. Funeral costs are expensive and seem to rise year after year. When an individual registers with a whole body donation program there are, in most cases, no cost for the transportation, cremation and final disposition of the cremains (a person’s cremated remains). Reputable and accredited organizations will treat the donor and their loved ones with the utmost dignity and respect and ensure that their bodies and wishes are honored.

Reason #4: Donating a body to science can help prevent inhumane treatment of animals.

Many modern medical practitioners are moving away from using live animals for research and testing due to the work of animal rights activists. Research indicates that surgeons who work on the human body surpass those who work on animals. The familiarity with the human body makes it much easier for them to translate what they learn to their work with patients.

The gift of anatomical donation has so much to offer every one of us. Those who donate may not realize that they might have helped save hundreds of thousands of lives. While we may never unlock all the mysteries of the human body, there is no question that this selfless gift helps advance research, imparts new knowledge, and spurs innovation.

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Research For Life - Understanding Whole Body Donor Consent

Hello, my name is Garland Shreves, CEO of Research For Life. I want to take a moment to discuss some very basic information with you regarding consent forms, in general, that you may encounter when considering to donate to a whole body donor organization.

First and foremost, you need to understand and read the consent form, also known as the authorization form or document of gift, so you know what you are consenting to.  Ask questions of the organization if you don’t understand something. 

 All states require, under the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, that consent be granted by an authorized agent of the donor or self-authorization before death.

Each state defines who in the consenting class has the most authority to direct donation. Such as the medical power of attorney, spouse, children, grandchildren, siblings, etc. and differs slightly in each state. 

Consent may be given by means of a verbal recorded consent or by a written document of gift.

Research For Life uses a written consent form which can be found on our website.

Understand that the donor or authorizing agent is giving the body to an organization. Once given it belongs to the organization to use in accordance with the consent form.

In other words, the donor organization is free to use the donor provided it does so within the terms

of the consent, it may not use the donor in a manner not consented too.  

The consent may state how the body may be used.  Educational and/or research purposes or some other purpose may be stated or in the discretion of the donor organization.

Research For Life provides cadavers and/or anatomical specimens for education and research purposes and does not do ballistic testing.

The consent may state that the body will be used in whole or in parts. It may also state that the anatomical parts may be used domestically and or internationally.

And most consents will cover some basic things like consent to test the donor for diseases and order medical records to help best determine the medical suitability for the donation.

The consent may also touch on issues like for profit or nonprofit status and if the donor or anatomical specimens will be used by one or more or both types of entities.  Remember that regardless of an organizations tax status they all charge fees to end users who order anatomical specimens and offer those specimens to both for profit and nonprofit entities.

From the very start of the donation process costs to the donor organization begin. 24-hour answering service, transport team to respond 24/7, qualified trained staff paid a livable wage with benefits and retirement, electric, gas, phone, insurances, building payments, maintenance, medical director, and regulatory requirements, and cremation fees. And these are just some of the expenses that an organization may have to cover.

Another item you may see on most authorization forms is a release of liability, a hold harmless agreement, excluding misconduct of course.  

Research For Life states clearly it will not and donor or agent agrees that Research For Life will not be held responsible for acts of third parties in connection with the donation.

Another item that reduces a donor organizations liability is the Anatomical Gift Act prohibits criminal, civil or administrative actions provided there is no intentional misconduct on the part of the donor organization. In other words, if the donor organization acted in good faith it is immune and provided some protection from lawsuits.

Another important part on a consent form is the person signing the authorization attests (affirms) that they have the authority to direct the donation. The donor organization accepts the authorizing agent’s authority in good faith barring any information known to it at the time of donation that would contradict the authority of the person authorizing donation.    

Remember, should you decide to register, tell your family and friends about your decision.

Also, the donation authorization form is not valid until notarized or signed by two witnesses; one witness must be non-family or disinterested party. 

Consent forms contain other important information that you need to read and understand.

All documents of gift or authorizations can be cancelled prior to death.

I want to thank you for taking the time to watch this video and I hope it helped provide you with some basic information regarding whole body donation consent forms.  Thank you.

Research for Life would like to express our deepest apology to any family of a donor that was declined during the stay at home order placed by the state of California. Research for Life has resumed acceptance of registered donors in our Southern California service area. Research for Life continues to accept registered donors in our Arizona service area. Due to COVID-19 Research for Life continues to limit visitors in both Southern California and Arizona. If you have a need to visit, please contact Research for Life for an appointment.
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