People have always wondered what happens after we die. We’re probably all familiar with the typical questions: is there truly life after death? Would spirits wander the earth, or be brought to a different place? Would souls be reincarnated? But whatever the mysteries are that surround our soul, it's certain that one thing gets left behind: our physical bodies.
What happens to our physical bodies once we die is less of a mystery. However, different cultures have different practices surrounding how they treat the bodies of their dead. This is also subject to the individual preference of the deceased or his family, if the deceased didn’t leave specific instructions beforehand.
One of the options a person may consider after he dies is donating his body to a scientific or medical institution. These institutions use dead human bodies for training medical professionals in surgical procedures or for research purposes.
If you would like to donate your body to one of these institutions after you die, it is imperative that you clearly express this interest yourself in writing through your Will or another legal document. It is best that you specify the name of the research institute, medical university, or hospital to which you want to bequeath your physical body. Make arrangements to have this organization notified once you pass away. Generally, a representative will make inquiries about the state of your body and the conditions surrounding the death to determine whether the body is acceptable for research or training purposes. It is recommended that you make a short list of three medical institutes, just in case the first one does not accept the body. Also, make arrangements as to how the body will be treated if all three reject the donation.
Know that many research institutes would not accept body donations if any organ has been removed, even if it was removed for an organ donation. It’s best that you contact the medical institute yourself and inquire about their policies and procedure for body donations. Try out this website to view listings of institutions with body donation programs in the United States: med.ufl.edu.
Another option to consider is simply making organ donations. As with whole body donations, it is essential that you express your intentions to donate your organs upon your death since many places do not allow family members to make this decision. In the United States, you can sign up with your State Donor Registry; you can access this online through your state's website. There are also options to sign up for organ donation whenever you renew your driver’s license. Once you sign up, you will be given the option to specify which type of organ donation you are willing to make; the organs most in demand are the heart, liver, kidneys and corneas. Some donations can be made while the donor is still alive - this includes donating a single kidney, part of the liver, and part of the pancreas.
Nearly anyone, regardless of age, can be an organ donor. The major exceptions would be individuals who are stricken with diseases such as HIV, AIDS, hepatitis, or cancer.
It’s highly important that you inform your family members of your intentions to become an organ donor; this will lessen any possible trauma that they may experience and, if needed, you can help them understand your reasons for your decision.
There you have it! These are just some of the fundamentals that you need to know with regards to body and organ donations. Good luck!