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Donating Your Body to Medicine

As part of your estate plan, you may want to leave instructions in your will to your loved ones to donate your body to medicine. There are many important reasons to donate your body to medicine. Your donation can be used to:

  • Teach medical students about the human body
  • Allow surgeons to practice new surgical techniques
  • Help doctors learn more about disease pathology
  • Help develop new medical devices, medicine and treatment

Most people are eligible to donate their body to medicine. People of any age and with most diseases or illnesses may donate. However, people with communicable diseases, like tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B or C or who were habitual illegal drug users will not be able to donate their bodies.

If you would like to donate your body to medicine, the first step to take is to decide which institution you would like to make the gift to. While it is not necessary to have chosen one in advance in order to donate, it can help make the process go more smoothly at the time of donation. You can choose to donate your body to a public institution, like a medical school, or to a private organization, like an implant company.

The UAGA provides a list of organizations that a person may donate tissue, organs or his or her body to, which includes hospitals, surgeons, physicians and procurement organizations that will use the donation for transplant, education, therapy, research or scientific advancement; accredited medical or dental schools for education or research purposes. Lastly, a person can choose to donate his or her tissues or organs to a specific person for transplant.

Depending on which organization you choose, you will be required to submit some type of consent form to legally document your decision. You also will be provided with information from the organization on how they treat donations and what types of measures they take to protect the integrity of their donations.

Once you have submitted a consent form for the donation, you may withdraw your consent at any time. Most institutions will require written notification of your decision. Under state law, you also may be able to revoke consent by making an oral statement in front of two witnesses, or by speaking, writing or making another form of communication to your doctor during terminal illness or injury. If you included your decision in your will, you can revoke the decision by codicil (a written amendment to your will) or by creating a new will. However, if you have not withdrawn your decision by the time of death, your family or other legal representative will not be able to revoke your consent.

It is important to keep in mind that even though you have made the decision to donate your body, the institution you have selected will reserve the right to reject your donation. Thus, it is necessary for you to include alternative burial arrangements should this occur.

You also should discuss your decision with your family and loved ones so they understand why this is important to you.

Preparing to Meet with Your Estate Planning Attorney

To read and print out a copy of the checklist, please follow the link below.

Preparing to Meet with Your Estate Planning Attorney

You can download a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader here

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