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Anatomical Donor Programs

Before my dad died in February, he signed up for his body to be donated for medical research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. We honored his wishes. 

As God would have it, on Monday UAB called to say they had finished their studies (they have up to 18 months) and would be mailing us the cremains on Tuesday. On Wednesday we received them. On Thursday we made plans for a small family service.

And today on Friday we will bury my dad’s remains with my mom’s body at the cemetery.

Even though it’s brought pain to the surface again, my family is thankful we’re getting this closure before 2010 ends, even if on the very day it ends.

Many medical schools have similar donor programs, along with state programs for organ donations, eye banks, etc. Now that we’ve gone from beginning to end with this one—and have been satisfied—I’ll share what we learned.

1. Why choose this?
Because students preparing for health professions need hands-on anatomical study.

My dad was both a very practical man and one who highly valued education, so he wanted his body to still be put to good use even when he no longer needed it.

2. Cost?
Around $750, basically covering the university’s costs for everything involved. Varies from program to program.

If you choose to bury the remains afterwards, like we have, you are responsible for those additional costs. 

3. Who can participate?
Anyone over 18 years of age, of sound mind, and with no contagious or infectious diseases can preregister.

4. What if you change your mind after you sign up?
You can. The next-of-kin also has the authority to make or deny the donation at the time of death. We did that with my mom.

She signed up for the program when my dad did, but because we knew her Alzheimer’s prevented her from really understanding that decision, we opted out of the donor program at her death, and instead honored her earlier wishes from when she was in a healthy state of mind to have a traditional burial.

5. What happens to the body at the end of the studies?
Within 18 months or earlier (only 10 months in our case), all remains are cremated at UAB. If the family has requested, the ashes are mailed to them. If not, medical students hold a special memorial service and inter the ashes in a Memorial Garden.

This program has been a brand-new experience for my family, and while nothing is easy about losing a loved one, we’ve at least had peace that we abided by our father’s wishes and that UAB handled everything in a dignified and respectful manner.

* * *
I apologize for this being a downer of sorts for Friday’s Fave Five, but I hope it will be helpful information to someone, somewhere.

Looking forward to 2011!


aspiritofsimplicity said...

My mother and her husband have both made this decision. We will certainly honor their wishes...hopefully in the very distant future.
I will keep your family in my prayers today as you go through this service for your dad.

Faith said...

Praying for you as I read this....may the Lord comfort you as you move through your day and weekend. And thank you for all this information....i didn't know much about it!

Kay said...

Saying an extra prayer for you today, Lisa... I'm glad that you have this 'closure' to the past year and I don't see your "Five" as a downer, just as a sobering reminder of how precious life is.

I also noticed your 'On and on we go...' tweet -- I was stuck on that very song last night!

Love you!! :)

Jerralea said...

I'm so glad you have closure today at the end of a difficult year for your family.

God bless you and may 2011 bring you much joy and happiness.

bekahcubed said...

I know that my education--and that of my sister--has benefited greatly from the unnamed individuals who donated their bodies for our studies.

I would like to someday donate my body to science, have desired to since the year I took anatomy. The only thing holding me back is the reservations some in my family have regarding cremation.

All I can say is THANK YOU to your dad--and to your family--for letting his body be used. It is an invaluable service.

Anonymous said...

I had never heard of a program like this, Lisa. Thank you for sharing it even in the midst of feeling the loss again.

Carrie said...

I knew of this program but I didn't understand all of these details. This is really fascinating. I'm so glad that you shared about it! Thanks!

Susanne said...

I'm glad you and your family were able to get your closure before the end of the year as you desired. Your father was a generous man donating his remains to science.

Happy New Year to you and your family.

Gattina said...

I wished more people would act like your dad ! I am full of admiration ! I will do the same.

Barbara H. said...

I've heard of people "donating their body to research" but didn't know what it entailed -- thanks for the information. In some ways it must be hard on the family to wait for that closure, but it's wonderful you honored your father's wishes to be a help to educate others. I'm glad that, even though it might stir up grief a bit, you'll be able to have this closure by the end of the year. Praying for you today.

Kari said...

I've never heard of such a program, thanks for sharing this.
Sorry that it's brought pain to the surface again, but I'm glad that there will be some closure before the new year.
Happy New Year Lisa.

Trisha said...

Thankful for the closure God has given you, Lisa. May you continue to be blessed daily with much joy as you reflect on times past with your parents and the anticipation of rejoicing one day with them in heaven.

Happy New Year!

Cindy said...

Sometimes bringing to the surface is a healing process as well as closure. I hope you and your family has both. I'm wishing you and your family a Happy New Year as it approaches.

Willow said...

I know there is an element of sadness in this for you, Lisa, even in the midst of your pride and admiration for your dad. My daughter was a TA for human biology classes at Biola University and she was able to learn much about the human body through the class and especially her professor. I often wondered what happened after the university was finished with study and research. Thanks for sharing this.

Lisa notes... said...

Thank you all, sweet friends. Each of your comments has been very valuable to me. I appreciate you sharing your stories and your compassion. I am blessed by all of you.


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