The need is great for anatomical gifts in the majority of medical programs throughout the United States. The lack of anatomical subjects in many schools forces anatomy departments to request shared bodies from other schools or institutions. In many situations, five or more students have to share one donated body, which limits hands-on education.
In addition to basic anatomy as a foundation course, donated bodies are also used for teaching surgery, orthopedics, ophthalmology, cardiology, neurology, and other specialty fields Millions of lives have been saved, and countless individuals enjoy optimum health today because of anatomical study using donated human gifts.
Whether donating a body to medical science for altruistic or pragmatic reasons, donation of a human body is not complicated if you know all the rules and regulations for each medical program. The two most important things to remember in all whole body donation programs are:
- No medical schools or state anatomical boards in the United States are permitted by law to purchase bodies from families or estates.
- The physical condition of the body, and not age, is the important factor in body donation. There is usually no upper age limit in the donation of a human body to medical science.
Organs and whole body donation are two separate programs, with different needs. A potential donor must make a decision to either donate his or her whole body or individual organ parts at death. With few exceptions, organ and tissue donations at death will prevent whole body donation for medical education. The exception would be the cornea of the eye, which can be donated without affecting whole body donation.
One of the most important things to be stressed here is that a potential body donor should not have a false sense of financial security concerning whole body donation. Many donated bodies are rejected at death for various reasons by medical schools. Be prepared with alternate burial or cremation plans for final disposition of the body.