Whole Body Donation with Cremation

Body donation has a direct impact on anatomy-education and medical research.  In Oregon, there are several whole-body donation programs.  

Selecting a Whole-Body Donation Program

Whole-body donation is not one of a kind.  Programs that advertise "Whole-Body" cremation will greatly vary in the intended use of the body, whether or not the body is dismembered and if dismembered, whether the body will remain "together", whether the body is cremated as a whole, and whether there is any educational value as a result of the donation.  We encourage you to read consent forms and understand the program that you may be providing a donation to.

Questions that are worth considering:

  • What is the purpose of the program?
  • What is the intended use of the body?
  • Will the body be dismembered?
    • if dismembered, will the dismembered parts remain together?  
    • if dismembered, where may the body parts be sent, and for what use?
  • Will the body be cremated in entirety, or as a whole?
    • if not, what portion of the cremated remains will be returned? 

We have reviewed consent forms of programs throughout the state and we break these into three types:

Agencies that perform Dismemberment:

Whole-body donation programs that facilitate or perform dismemberment will generally distribute body parts for different purposes, and with financial gain.  These dismembered body parts are shipped to any agency, facility or group that pays for use of these parts, and these "leased" body parts may go to purchasers throughout the country or internationally.  Once used, these body parts are generally not be returned to the original donation program to be reunited with the rest of that body, but instead, are disposed of as medical waste.  The unused body parts (usually only 15-25% of the body) are cremated (generally by a third party) and returned to the family.  The body parts may be used for research, medical devices, training including military training, or other uses that an agency is willing to pay for.  Some of these agencies may advertise “Free Cremation” in order to get families to donate the body to their business, and the business is likely to have substantial financial gain from the dismembered body parts.   

Agencies that are for Research: 

Whole-body donation programs that facilitate or perform “research” generally dismember the body into parts that are used in various other research programs.  These dismembered body parts are shipped to any agency, facility or group that pays for use of these parts, and these "leased" body parts may go to purchasers throughout the country.  Once used, these body parts are generally not returned to the original donation program to be reunited with the rest of that body, but instead, are disposed of as medical waste. The unused body parts (usually only 15-25% of the body) are cremated (generally by a third party) and returned to the family.  This research may, or may not, have any educational value and whole-body donation programs that engage in research are generally highly profitable.   Some of these agencies may advertise “Free Cremation” in order to get families to donate the body to their business, and the business is likely to have substantial financial gain from the dismembered body parts.   Many highly respected universities engage in the practice of dismemberment for research purposes.  Read their documents, particularly the “Consent Form”, very carefully if you are interested in knowing their practices.

Agencies that are for Education:

Whole-body donation Programs that limit their focus to “Education” are curriculum-based in nature and meets the needs of centuries old anatomy studies.  The body serves an educational need in society and plays an important role in supporting the anatomy-education of doctors and other health care professionals.  Once the needs of the curriculum are met, the entire body will be cremated.  The program should disclose the intended use of a body in their consent form, and be willing to discuss it more specifically with a potential donor or the family.  Read their documents, particularly the “Consent Form”, very carefully if you are interested in knowing their practices.

There are several Oregon-based whole-body programs supporting research and education.  There is one program strictly supporting Education:

Educational Body Donation
(503) 404-4114

www.EducationalBodyDonation.org

Please research your interested program, and read their documents,

particularly the “Consent Form”, very carefully to understand their practices.