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Leaving body to medical science

(32 Posts)
Stoker48 Tue 15-May-18 10:18:10

I wonder if anyone has experience of being involved with the procedure of leaving their body to medical science? I’m considering this for myself.
From what I understand there would, obviously, be no
funeral in the accepted way but nothing to stop loved ones having a life celebration.
I’m sure there is lots to consider, I’m just at the beginning of this thought process.
I’d be truly grateful if anyone could share their experiences with me. Either they have arranged this or has experience of a loved one who has and, when the time came, was it relatively straight forward?
I dint want to leave my next of kin with a headache!
Thank you

midgey Tue 15-May-18 10:53:24

My husband plans to do this. I think he got in touch with our local hospital and they sent him all the forms and so on. They are a bit fussy! If you have varicose veins and some other complaints/diseases they will not accept you. They may also decline a body because they have ‘enough’ at that time! Check with your hospital.

paddyann Tue 15-May-18 10:55:09

there will have to be a burial/cremation when the research is finished,they return the remains to the family .We've stipulated this in our wills.but be aware that there are so many people who are willing to donate their remains that many wont be needed or wanted.You have to make arrangements in case this happens with you.So a funeral fund is still necessary ,speak to a solicitor and he/she can fill in the details for you .

glammanana Tue 15-May-18 11:11:13

We have arranged for this to happen when we go,we contacted our nearest University and completed the forms about 8yrs ago,as stated you can be refused and have to make your own arrangements so be aware of that,they can refuse the donation if the person is obese or they have enough donations at that time.
A memorial service can be carried out which is what we are doing and ashes returned if requested for interment into the family grave or remembernce garden.
Our Doctor and families have all the details.

Panache Tue 15-May-18 11:39:36

This is highly commendable and as an ex Nurse with thoughts very much still in the Medical field,this is something I would have liked to do.
However with all the operation scars and all else on my body,including varicose veins!! I know full well I would be rejected so a course I have not even attempted even to take my thoughts any further.

However Good luck stoker48 and all you others contemplating following this route.

Grandma70s Tue 15-May-18 12:27:01

Both my parents did this, but I don’t know what the process was then. They died in 1997 and 2001, aged nearly 90 and 94. In the end when they died my mother was not accepted, but my father was. I don’t know why. It was such a relief not having to have a funeral for my father. He certainly didn’t want one. Now, of course I know that theres’s no need to have a funeral anyway, but we didn’t know then, and my mother’s was a bit farcical, since she had outlived all of her friends and most of her relations, and certainly had no religious faith.

When my father was accepted, I don’t remember it being at all complicated. We had a lovely family lunch in celebration of his long life, and it was all so much less traumatic than when my mother died.

I would urge anyone to do this. If you can be useful after your death, why not be?

Grandma70s Tue 15-May-18 12:32:51

Just to add that we were given the choice of eventually
having our own burial or cremation, but chose not to. We left it to the hospital. Remains, after all, are not the person. It just depends how you feel about this.

Jane10 Tue 15-May-18 13:33:02

This is not really relevant to the OP but, my dear granny had had several strokes that had affected her language use. She announced to my surprise one day that she'd like her body to go for public auction. On seeing my shocked face she then asked what she had said then corrected herself to say that she'd meant medical research!shock

sparkly1000 Tue 15-May-18 13:48:49

Medical faculties are not short on body donations so can be picky, plus they can only accommodate so many cadavers. Unless you have had a rare or "interesting" condition you are very unlikely to be accepted.
Personally I would rather donate any of my usable bits and pieces to help the living.

Gagagran Tue 15-May-18 14:00:03

My DH has done this and filled in all the forms with our local University Medical School. He definitely does not want a funeral as such so if they decline his body I think we will just have him cremated privately and scatter his ashes in the sea.

I want a green burial in a wicker basket but not a formal funeral service.

Our children are our executors and know what we want.

Floradora9 Tue 15-May-18 15:36:46

The pity is that they do not always accept the body. We live near a large teaching hospital and both my aunt and my mother wanted to leave their bodies to it and both were turned down . Make sure you leave other arrangements in place in case this happens.

sparkly1000 Tue 15-May-18 16:33:58

When a nursing student 20 years ago I remember a lecture on this.
Faculties of Medicine are inundated with these requests for varying reasons.
Basically when an elderly person dies it is because of a major/multiple organ failure due to an underlying common condition, This is of no interest to the medical profession nor can it benefit their research.

NotAGran55 Tue 15-May-18 18:33:06

My uncle had MND and donated his brain and spinal cord only . I can't recall how it was arranged .

Farmor15 Tue 15-May-18 22:28:53

Both my parents and my aunt left their bodies to medical science and all were accepted, even though elderly and with varicose veins etc. The only condition was that body should be intact- no limbs amputated and couldn’t also donate organs. They all registered with medical school of a university.
I think there’s a bit of confusion about what bodies left to medical science are used for. Most are used to teach anatomy to medical students, not for medical research.

When my parents died, their bodies were taken directly from hospital to medical school but we had memorial services in church. There was a choice of having remains returned to family for burial or cremation or allowing them to be buried in a special medical school plot in cemetery.

I think it’s important for anyone thinking of donating body to discuss with family as some would not like the idea. Also, a close relative should know the procedure to be followed after the death - who to contact about collecting body.

Donating body was actually much cheaper than normal funeral as medical school paid for burial. But my parents really wanted to donate their bodies so I was pleased to be able to follow their wishes.

SueDonim Tue 15-May-18 23:11:45

My dd is a medical student so I'm coming at this from the opposite side, if you like. In her university there is a shortage of bodies for anatomy teaching, contrary to the experience of others on here, so the likelihood of acceptance may well vary from area to area.

The bodies are treated very respectfully and at the end of it all, an annual service is held, which students are expected to attend. All families are invited, too, though very few choose to attend. It's a way for students and faculty to thank the person and family for their generosity.

This next paragraph about anatomy may be a sensitive subject for some, so please don't read on if you think it will upset you.

Her med school also accepts partial bodies. Some medical schools teach anatomy via prosection which can involve the body being divided into parts for students to study, rather than an intact body. In that way, students can study more than one example and can compare what they see in different versions and learn from that.

Nelliemoser Wed 16-May-18 00:02:02

I think the hospitals are less willing to accept bodies for medical students than they were as people are seeing it as an option for a cheap funeral.

A friend of mine who has had major mental health issues on and off since she was a teenager, has willed her brain for medical research.

stella1949 Wed 16-May-18 07:32:49

Another option is to donate your remains to forensic science. Bodies are used to allow scientists to solve crimes. Any university which teaches forensic science , would be your first contact.

maddy47 Wed 16-May-18 16:45:11

I have two grandsons with autism. I carry a card and have written into my will that my brain will be removed and will go to an institute for autism research. They apparently are trying to identify what exactly makes an autistic brain different from a non-autistic brain. I hope that in my small way I can help.

Mitzy Wed 16-May-18 21:50:15

My father had said he wanted his body on death to be used for medical research. I had agreed because I knew this was what he wanted, but then had a tremendous sense of relief when they didn't want to make use of his body. I still feel that today, even though it was 15 years ago.

LynneB59 Wed 16-May-18 22:00:48

My dad left his body to medical science (he died 18 years ago, at the age of 81). He had always been quite methodical and practical, so when he died we had nothing to arrange or pay for. He died in hospital, and his body was sent to the relevant department, and that was it. We had no funeral, coffin, flowers, vicar, nothing at all to see to.

The hospital asked if we'd like a service, which was free, at the hospital chapel. We did that, only for the sake of my dad's friends and sisters. afterwards, we went to a pub for a buffet.

2 years later, the hospital wrote to us, asking if we wanted my dad's remains, to bury or cremate. We declined.

My husband and I have signed up for the same thing (we're 59 and 60)

Alexa Wed 16-May-18 23:17:54

I am too old to be any use for spare parts. However my bones and muscles would be useful for students doing basic anatomy at least. I was all set to leave my dead body for this purpose until the university persisted in calling me a cadaver. My pleasure is in the respect with which the student would regard my dead body even after it is skinned and down to the bones. Cadaver is a rude word in my opinion. I will still be Alexa , not some anonymous cadaver , while I am on the slab. I withdrew my offer from these rude people at the university and I will be cremated instead.

SueDonim Thu 17-May-18 13:11:59

Alexa, according to my student Dd, in this situation the word cadaver is a legal term. It's used to avoid any confusion/argument over words such as remains/body which could be challenged legally by family, as those words have no definition in law.

Alexa Thu 17-May-18 13:22:08

SueDonim, Thanks, I accept. However words have emotional connotations and what I want for my dead body is a decision that involves my feelings. Businesses must become more aware of peoples feelings and use friendly language if they want to engage people's help.

Does anyone else feel that 'cadaver' is not a friendly word to call the dead bodies of one's self or nearest and dearest?

It would be nice if the anatomy students and their teachers could bring themselves to say a few words of respectful thanks to the dead donor on the slab before they get to work on the science and technology.

Alexa Thu 17-May-18 13:26:37

PS in the olden days when I trained as a nurse I was taught to perform what was called 'the last offices'. A respectful attitude was required of nurses washing and dressing dead patients. These dead patients were still persons with rights, not simply

SueDonim Thu 17-May-18 16:15:54

Unfortunately, cadaver is the term required by law and the hospitals have to abide by the law, they have no choice. It would need a change of current law to use any other word.

I've checked with my Dd, and she confirms that all bodies are treated with respect at all times inc some words about each individual person at the start of the year. Anatomy is safeguarded by many laws to ensure that bodies are treated with respect. Students must be appropriately dressed in dark clothing, as for a religious service, so no bare shoulders/midriffs/legs. Hair must be tidy and tied back if long. No sunglasses can be worn, nor anything frivolous. A below-knee length white coat must be worn. No mobile phones are permitted.

These are legal requirements and breaking them can result in severe penalties including dismissal from med school. Students begin their course by learning some of the general background of the body they will be dealing with, although it is anonymised for privacy reasons. Attendance at the end of year memorial service is compulsory.

My own Dd had been to her beloved 93yo grandmother's funeral just before she began at med school so she was fully aware of what is involved. She has never seen anything disrespectful towards the generous people who made the decision to help the doctors of tomorrow.

I know you've made your decision, Alexa, but this is just to inform others of how the process goes.