Body Donation

This is my body, which is given up for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”

Luke 22:19

Are you willing not to have a funeral
But give away your very body for medical research?

Just a signature on your Living Will
To make the Eucharist
A deeply meaningful ideal
The Word made flesh, indeed.

For, from dust you came
And to dust you shall return.

Many are the interpretations to the verse “From dust you came, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19):

One indicates that the body of every creature would eventually decay and mix with the soil.

A more special meaning: When our lives are driven by noble values, we return to dust - not merely as bodies that decay - but models of the values we stood for.

Seen in yet another way, “from the Heavens you came and to Heaven you shall return.” That’s because it is the same God that created the Heaven and the Earth - He is united to both. He is present in both!

We who owe our very existence to God, assume our glory through Him alone. An act of charity done in God’s own name, should be seen as a high note in history.

The covenant (or pledge) to donate one’s body to science or medical research or medical teaching exemplifies love of neighbour through sharing one's body to serve others apart from assisting the progress of mankind and the advancement of science.

A Living Will (a terminology used more in various countries of the world) is a document that enables you to pledge your body to a medical college, research institute or otherwise for experimental and educational pursuits.

Types of Body Donation:

There are two types of body donation or cadaver donation:

1. Donating the remainder of one’s body for medical research, after all useful organs are harvested for donation.
2. Donating the entire body for medical research, without opting to make organ donations. This is also called whole body donation.

Uses of Body Donation:

In her book 'Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers', author Mary Roach puts forth a considerable amount of useful information on the unique contributions of dead bodies in making life better for the living. Here are some of the uses of human cadavers she deals with:

  • Use of fresh organs for transplants into diseased living persons.
  • Use of severed parts of the body for the practice by plastic surgeons.
  • Study of how our bodies decay is important to forensic medicine.
  • Cadavers are valuable to test safety features of automobiles and airplanes.
  • The military uses cadavers to test weapons systems and also to test equipment designed to protect troops (e.g. from land mines).
  • Bodies can be subject to 'plastination', a method that makes it possible to preserve natural anatomical
  • Specimen’s permanently for the purposes of research and instruction (of both medical professionals and the public) by more or less converting them into a kind of plastic.

Conditions based on which body donations may not be acceptable

  • Badly burned (such as in a fire) or decomposed (such as in a drowning)
  • Contagious disease (such as hepatitis or AIDS)
  • Degenerative disease (such as metastatic cancer)
  • Obesity
  • An autopsied body or any other unsuitable condition.
  • The conditions, however, may vary from institute to institute and within each country.
  • Decide to make a Body Donation voluntarily and out of your own freewill.
  • You may do well to consult and discuss your desire for body donation with your next of kin, relatives and friends. Their opinion and agreement is quintessential, for after your death, it is they who fulfill your desire to donate your body.
  • A potential body donor would also do well to make a Living Will (just as an aspiring organ donor does). Presently, a Living Will may be made on a stamp paper of value Rs.20/-
  • In the Living Will, you may mention the name and identity of the person who will contact and coordinate with the medical college or research institute to which your body must be donated, giving such person the responsibility and the authority to carry out your wish of how your body should be donated.
  • The Living Will should be signed by two witnesses including a next of kin of the donor’s family (who must execute the Will).
  • It is necessary that the donor always carries with him/her, the Identity Card vouching for the wish to make body donation.
  • Should death occur due to accident or under unexpected circumstances or at an unexpected place, the Body Donation Identity Card comes handy for the persons attending to the deceased donor to identify him as a “Body or Cadaver Donor”. The Identity Card helps contact the person responsible and authorized by the donor to conduct the formalities with the donee medical college or research institute.