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I Donated My Body to Science

Why I donated my body to science
why i donated my body to science large family

Twenty years ago, Chuck and I had five young children and realized we needed to be Responsible Adults and get life insurance. If the worst ever happened, we wanted to make sure our family would be taken care of. We found someone crazy nice enough to take in our child were we to both die and now we needed to cover the financial end. So we bought 20-year term life insurance.

I dontated my body to science. Bubble floating in lavender field.

Well, my friends, that 20 years is up, neither of us died, and those five children are all grown up. Now that Chuck and I are old, the price of life insurance has skyrocketed and we decided to forgo it. But the insurance company, it seems, doesn’t want us to go life insurance-less.

How kind of them.

Shortly after choosing not to renew my life insurance, a kind representative from the insurance company called. She sounded shocked (and maybe a little hurt?) when I told her I did not want to renew or purchase a new life insurance policy.

“Oh…um…may I ask why?” she asked.

“Yes. Our kids are grown and we no longer need it for them if we die”

“Oh. I see. Well, many people like to carry a policy to cover burial expenses…”

“No need for that. I donated my body to science.”

** pause **

“Oh. Um…really?”

“Yes. It’s free and when they’re done with my body, they will even send my cremated remains back to my family if they choose.”

** uncomfortable laughter **

“Ah…okay. Well please let us know if we can help with anything else”

“Sure thing. And have a great day!”

At this point, you may be wondering if I have actually donated my body to science or if I just came up with a creative way to shake off an insurance saleswoman. The answer is yes. I have registered to have my body donated to science after I die. And here’s why.

Pet Semetary inspired photo- I donated my body to science.

One day I heard a blurb on the radio about environmentally-friendly burials and started thinking. My errands often take me right past a cemetery in our city. I have walked through it, reading the headstones, and cleaning moss out of carved epitaphs that are a hundred years old. Taking a moment to imagine the lives of the people who are buried there. The most heartbreaking being headstones that listed just one date…babies who didn’t live long enough to have a birth and death date listed.

I donated my body to science- pet semetary

That led me to think about all the humans who have lived and died. Burying the dead is one thing. Preserving bodies through embalming, placing them in wooden or metal coffins, then placing that in a concrete vault is hardly sustainable. Of course, not everyone is embalmed and plenty of coffins are made of wood, but our modern American cemeteries aren’t exactly set up to accommodate every human who dies. There simply isn’t enough room in the ground.

Alternatives to Being Buried in the Ground After Death

Obviously, cremation is an age-old option. It has the benefit of reducing the human body to about five pounds of ash. But you still need to buy a coffin for that, and it isn’t exactly cheap. According to Western Cremation Alliance, “The average cost for a direct cremation in Washington is $1,570 and ranges up to $4,165.”

Earth Funeral has a process that will turn your body into “a cubic yard of nutrient-rich soil” in just 45 days. Sadly, I have no idea what this costs because they won’t release their prices until you input your information and leave your email address.

Eternal Reefs “takes the cremated remains or “cremains” of an individual and incorporates them into a proprietary, environmentally safe cement mixture designed to create artificial reef formations. The Eternal Reefs are then placed in one of our permitted ocean locations selected by the individual, friend, or family member.” An interesting idea, but Eternal Reefs start at $4500.

The Natural Burial Company has some cool eco-friendly options. They offer wicker coffins, cardboard coffins, shroud boards, and biodegradable “acorn urns” you can plant. I mean, honestly, who wouldn’t want to be an Acorn Urn after they die?

Oneworld Memorials says, “the lovely Acorn Biodegradable Cremation Urn – Moss Green will quickly decompose in the earth, leaving only loving memories behind.” Does that mean my kids won’t remember the times I yelled at them, forgot to call them for dinner (#largefamilyproblems), and helped them turn in the Worst Science Fair Project Ever? If so, count me in!

Passages International has various options, including a Biotree Urn ($575) that “is engineered to nourish and grow a tree as a permanent memorial to a loved one, and includes a geotag system to create an online memorial”.

They also offer a variety of shrouds and this cool wicker carrier.

The Kiri Urn “can be used for people and pets. It can be planted in gardens, parks, and forests. It can also be planted in a pot with enough size to cover the urn completely.” You type in your zip code and have a selection of plants and trees for your climate.

Why I Donated My Body to Science

Detailed human heart from Dr. livingston's anatomy puzzles

I’m not an organ donor…but that is a post another day. But here are the reasons I chose to donate my body to science.

When it comes to my personal after-death choices, embalming is out, I have made it clear to Chuck that there will be no open coffin funeral or viewing. If my immediate family *needs* to see me dead…so be it. But I have no interest in having my friends and acquaintances walk past my dead body.

All of these require some research and planning. For simplicity, I have registered to donate my body to Science Care.

I have also registered to donate my body to the University of Washington. When I die, my next of kin will need to contact Science Care or UW to let them know I am dead. My body will be collected, used, then cremated. I took some time to think about what I *wouldn’t* want my body used for after my death. Like, what is the worst possible outcome? And I decided…I really don’t care. Once I’m dead, I’m done using my body.

So there you have it. The life insurance has run out (no need to kill us now) and my dead body expenses are covered.

Now, I can sleep at night.

Just kidding, I can rarely sleep at night.

9 Comments

  1. Tarynkay

    You have inspired me to go register for this as well! I’m currently registered as an organ donor, would you mind answering why you don’t want to do that? I really have not thought deeply about it. They asked me decades ago when I got my drivers license and I said sure.

  2. Nichole

    A little off topic, but I donated my Dalmatian’s body to a local university for their vet school, not research. They have a deceased pet donation program for their students to learn on donated pets instead of learning on pieces of specimens in formalin. It apparently lends to better learning. Anyway, I intend to do it for my other two dogs when their time is at an end.

    It’s definitely an awkward topic. Most people don’t know what to do or say when they find out I donate my pets’ deceased bodies. But I have no use for their ashes. And I have nowhere to bury them. And I didn’t like the idea of the vet’s office “disposing” of the body for me. So why not have future veterinarians benefit during their classes?

    For myself, I participate in various research trials occasionally (if I’m comfortable with what’s required); but I haven’t looked into donating my body for research at my death. I’m going to have to look into it.

    • Renee

      Interesting. I have never thought about animals bodies being donated, though that makes perfect sense. We have just buried pets on our property since we own acerage and pets don’t require coffins. Going back to the earth seems like a good option for them.

  3. Delia Brands

    Thanks Renee this totally has me thinking on multiple levels… First of all I’m curious why you said no to organ donation because like your previous commenter I said sure go ahead take what you can use from my body on my drivers license… Pete has always said he wants his body donated to science but we haven’t registered him for that and I have always been opposed to filling my body with formaldehyde and then putting it in a good box inside of a concrete box where it will take forever to decompose… I wouldn’t be opposed to be put in a compostable bag directly in the soil but I’d much rather have my flesh be used however it can be for science or to sustain other peoples lives. So thank you for this inspiration to get that ball rolling in case I have an early enough demise where my flesh & bones can still be useful!

  4. Kathryn Barber

    I’m 64 now and planning to go to college when I die; so is my 98 year old mother, even though she already graduated once. My maternal grandparents, father and I believe my aunt also donated their bodies. When my son died at 25, my biggest regret was they were unable to use his body for donation or research because he had MRSA in addition to the brain injury complications that caused his death.

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