After you die, you don’t have much use for your body. It’s either buried or cremated. So what are your afterlife plans? Most people haven’t given it much thought. Besides, who wants to talk about death? We don’t want to think about dying.
Unfortunately, it’s unavoidable.
So here’s another option to immediate burial or cremation: It’s called body donation. Yes, you can donate your entire body to a local medical school. Sound creepy? It’s not. Think about all the new doctors that enter the medical profession. How do you think they learned? They don’t practice on animal cadavers. They need body donors.
Medical students depend on cadavers to become skilled in treating the living and saving lives. So where do medical schools find cadavers? Glad you asked. Large universities like the University of Cincinnati have medical body donation programs. I signed up a few years ago and carry a card in my wallet that states this.
So why write about this creepy topic? I am doing so because many people don’t know about this option. I have shared my final wishes with several friends and relatives recently. They all thought it was a great idea. But they didn’t have any knowledge about body donation programs. So here’s how it works: Contact your local medical school or visit their website and you can easily find the information. It’s a matter of submitting a few forms. The only requirement is you cannot be an organ donor. Medical schools need your body intact.
Several years ago, a co-worker’s mother had died. She donated her body to the University of Cincinnati (UC). This was the first time I had ever heard of body donations. I shared this story with my late mother-in-law. She loved the idea enough to contact UC and sign up. She passed in 2015. Afterward, I arranged for UC to recover her body. I paid $200 to transport her body to UC, which was the only expense I incurred.
After the university finished with her body, they handled the cremation and returned the ashes to our family. UC will also bury the remains in the school’s grave plot if the family so chooses.
My mother-in-law signed up for the body donation program for two reasons. First, she didn’t want us spending thousands on a funeral. Second, she loved the idea of her body being used for educational purposes.
Her logic made sense. After she died, I followed her plan and will do the same. I told one of my friends about my plans. She found the idea too creepy to consider. Whenever I discuss this program with others I get one of two reactions. It’s either a great idea or just too creepy beyond words.
The body donation has made great strides since its inception. Previously, people were too superstitious to donate their bodies to science. Some people even think their body has to be intact for their next journey. Many years ago, superstition kept medical schools from acquiring cadavers. Schools were forced to pay people to find cadavers.
The people who sought dead bodies for medical schools were typically grave robbers. These individuals would visit local cemeteries and dig up corpses and then sell them to medical schools. The schools often had a policy of not asking questions about the deceased. Imagine visiting a deceased relative and then finding an open grave without a body.
You would never realize the body was sold to a medical school. Missing corpses would lead to the legend of the ghoul—a creature that feasted on the deceased.
Fear of being abducted by a ghoul kept locals from entering graveyards at night. This made grave robbing a little easier. Thankfully, we have since progressed and have changed our views on donating our bodies to medical schools. If you are interested in donating your body to science, it’s a simple process. Not only will you save money on an expensive funeral, you can also benefit a future medical student.
Marc is a grandparent and longtime resident of Clermont County. Visit his author page Life with Grandpa and he also just wrote Just Bite Me: A Guide to Zombies, Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Walking Nightmares, which is available on Amazon.com.