Planning for Whole Body Donation in Medical Science

Steps to Take for Full Body Donation to a Medical Institution

At Wilson & Wilson Estate Planning and Elder Law LLC, we understand the generosity and altruism behind the decision to donate one's body to medical science. Medical schools and other health-related educational institutions frequently require whole body donations to support their research endeavors and educational programs. Such donations are particularly vital to osteopathic and chiropractic schools, which often experience a pronounced need.

Whole body donations, as the term suggests, mean that the body will be utilized in its entirety for medical training and research purposes. Institutions will not accept donations where organs have been removed. After the medical institution has finished with the donated body, customarily, it is cremated. Depending upon the institution's policy, the cremated remains (cremains) may be buried or scattered in a designated area. However, if you specifically request, some institutions may arrange to have the cremains returned to your family for private burial or scattering, typically within one to two years. Ensure you discuss and confirm these details when you arrange your donation.

It is illegal for medical institutions to compensate your family for the donation of your body. Nonetheless, the cost to your survivors is generally minimal or non-existent. Most medical schools will cover the transportation of the body and any expenses related to the final disposition of remains. We recommend confirming with your chosen medical institution about its policies on transportation and final disposition to prevent any unforeseen costs.

To prepare for a whole body donation, proactive coordination with the medical institution of your choice is advisable. Yet, some institutions might accept donations posthumously with the written approval of your healthcare agent or closest relative. It is crucial to understand your rights regarding healthcare directives and appointing a healthcare agent, which can be further explored through resources about living wills and healthcare powers of attorney.

Residents of states lacking a medical school, or where existing schools impose stringent donation criteria, may explore alternative avenues for body donation with organizations like the National Anatomical Service, which can be reached any time at 800-727-0700.

Once your arrangements are in place or your decision is made, we at Wilson & Wilson Estate Planning and Elder Law LLC stress the importance of communicating your wishes to your loved ones. Without this crucial step, your desired contributions to medical science may not be honored. To ensure your wishes are clear and legally recognized, it is best to document your intentions in a healthcare document, such as a living will, or another legal document outlining your preferences.

For assistance with estate planning, including the arrangement of whole body donations, please feel free to reach out to us at Wilson & Wilson Estate Planning and Elder Law LLC at (708) 482-7090. We also offer a Consultation to help answer any questions you may have about the process and legal considerations.

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