Body Donation: What Happens to My Body if I Donate It?

Body and Organ Donation

Posted on December 17, 2013 by Owen Toy

What Happens After I Donate My Body?

There are two types of donation when it comes to your body. You can either donate your whole body or just your organs. If you donate your body then your body will be used to help further medical advancements or help teach new medical students about the body.  If you donate your organs then your organs are used to help save people's lives.

WARNING: THIS POST MAY BE CONSIDERED GRAPHIC IN NATURE.

In an effort to provide you with the most information about how your body would be used, we outline below several ways to donate your body to science and how your body would be used in each circumstance. This could be disturbing to some readers.

What happens if I donate my body to a hospital or medical organization?

Your body can be used in different ways depending on where it goes.  If you donate your body to a medical school then your body is likely used to teach medical students about human anatomy. The schools start by cutting your body apart and then allocating the different parts to different students to use in the course of study. They do this so more students can learn about the body at same time.

For example, some students would be given the head so they could learn more about the brain and others would be given the chest to learn about the heart. Your body could also be given to doctors who are trying to learn a new technique. In this case the doctor would use a cadaver for practice.

Other places your body can be donated to:

Forensics school

At a school for forensics your body will be put into different kinds of environments to study how the body decays.

Military

The use of bodies in the military is slightly controversial because of the way they use the bodies.  The military uses donated bodies to test things that would be unsafe for living people to test.  For example, they may use a cadaver to test if something was bulletproof or not.

Crash Test Facilities

Crash test bodies are used to see how the body would react in a car crash. This is important because crash test dummies do not accurately show how the body will react in a real crash.  Bodies have been used in crash testing of important safety features such the modern-day car seat belt, air bags, dashboard padding, and safer windshields.

Body Exhibit

Sometimes bodies are used for special projects.  Your body could be on display at an exhibit like “Body Worlds” or a museum like the “Mutter” museum.

Can I Donate My Body AND My Organs?

It is not possible to become both an organ donor and a body donor because to be a body donor you must have all your organs.

How do I donate my body?

In order to donate your body you need to either contact the university you would like to give your body to or fill out a form in advance with an organization such as Medcure, for example.  There are other whole body donation organizations on a state, regional, or national level.  Some are for-profit and some are not-for-profit.  Be sure to thoroughly evaluate them to be sure you know who you are working with and select the best one for you.

No matter which organization you choose, you should make a back-up plan in case the organization isn't accepting bodies or you do not qualify. Be sure to indicate what your final disposition preference is (i.e. cremation vs. burial) and if you have any other specific requests such as no embalming, family-only viewing, green burial, etc. so your family doesn't need to make those decisions on your behalf.

For more on body donation, see: Everything You Need to Know About Body Donation.