An Anatomical Gift

The anatomical gift:  would you donate your body to medical schools for education and research?  Now, would I donate my body, knowing how invaluable the introductory anatomy experience has been for fresh medical students? After learning so much about the human body and functions from methodical dissections, I am grateful to the people who have given their bodies to science. I still cannot stomach to think about the cadavers as people like you and me when they were alive. They have families who miss them. They used to have jobs, talents, feelings, reminiscent childhoods, college sweethearts, favorite foods and flowers, amusing memories, etc… they were humans. Most lived a full life, up to 80s and 90s, though the end was likely wrought with sadness and suffering.  From the inside, we saw the physical damages brought on by cardiovascular disease, pulmonary failure, stroke, and cancer. Tumors gnawed away at lungs or the colon. Pulmonary embolism, huge pulmonary vessels, and hyperplasia, all contribute to severe pulmonary disease. A rock-solid thoracic aorta, likely from plaque-build up, atherosclerosis, and hypertension.  The physical deterioration of the human body is inescapable and only a natural procession through life.

Back to my original reflection, would I donate my body? Personally, no, for religious and cultural reasons. In Chinese culture, it is believed we pass onto the afterlife with our bodies intact. If bodies are opened and parts tampered with, then the soul and spirit have been contaminated. Whether it’s traditional burial or cremation, the body needs to be whole.

I wonder if people know what really goes on in the laboratory, whether they and their families have been fully informed of their decisions. They may only see the unconditional glory in donating out of the goodness of their hearts for medical science and research, and not what happens to their bodies physically. At the end of their lives, the sick patients seek to pass their sufferings and escape to a better place.

Regardless of my personal proclivities, I am thankful to the people and families who gave the gift of knowledge to us. Currently, I am aboard the committee planning for the upcoming memorial ceremony in honor of the donors and their families. I am excited to be a part of this collaborative team in making this a memorable and meaningful experience for students, deans, families, friends and the community. This is really the first time I’m taking on a leadership role this significant and poignant.

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One thought on “An Anatomical Gift

  1. Thank you for posting an article about whole body donation for medical research. Whole body donation is a great alternative to a typical funeral. However, there can be fees associated with a medical school donation.

    Science Care (www.sciencecare.com) is truly a wonderful program for anyone seeking to donate their bodies to further medical research and training. I am a representative of the organization and I cannot tell you enough what a generous gift it is to donate your body to science – each donor personally helps to save lives for future generations. Science Care also covers all costs associated with the donation, which alleviates family’s form being burdened by fees at the time of their loved ones passing.

    It is also important to remember that not every medical school accepts donation and some medical schools can only accept a certain number of donations per year. That is one of the reasons why there is a need for private companies such as Science Care. We always recommend having a plan B in the event that your primary plan falls through.

    I also want to caution folks who wish to donate their bodies to science to make sure and do your research before you choose where to donate your body. There are over a dozen programs for medical research and education, but only three in the entire U.S. are accredited by the American Association of Tissue Banks. Science Care was the first and continues to actively lobby for responsible tissue banking by way of accreditation. While accreditation is not a legal requirement, it is really the only way to make sure a program holds high standards for quality and safety.

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