There’s a difference between “organ donation” and “anatomical bequest.” Many people choose to donate organs upon their death – healthy parts of their bodies that may be transplanted upon their death into someone else to assist that individual in recovering from or surviving a serious injury or illness. There are many opportunities during your adult years to communicate your interest in generously donating your organs: everything from getting a Driver’s License to executing a legal document like a Health Care Directive or even a Will. But, an anatomical bequest is different – it’s a donation of your whole body to science/education upon your death. If you’re interested in generously gifting your entire body, there are a few things you should know and a couple of steps you or your loved ones need to proactively take.
Although there are a number of ways for you or your loved ones to donate your body for research and educational purposes, probably the easiest way is to contact your nearest large research university. In Minnesota, that would be the University of Minnesota. U of M has a large bequest program to which one applies during your life, or to which your loved ones may apply after your death. For individuals making the decision in advance for themselves, there is a very simple and straightforward application, which one signs, dates, and has witnessed, and to which one attaches one’s Health Care Directive (if in existence).
Here is the link to the program and the application:
The U of M website on the Bequest Program is quite thorough and will likely answer many of your questions. You and your loved ones may wish to consider the following things:
- Talk to your loved ones about your wishes in advance. Some may find the idea difficult to imagine without prior notice and explanation of your reasons and the process involved with the bequest program;
- Put your wishes in writing (in addition to the application). Execute a Health Care Directive or a Will – these are the most reliable, and can confirm what you have already acted upon through your application, and explained to your loved ones through open communication.
- Make sure your loved ones understand who to contact upon your death, and when the program will return your remains;
- You and your loved ones have some control over how your body is used for research and/or educational purposes, as well as where it can be used (meaning, which regional campuses and programs);
- Make sure you understand your options for handling your remains. Most programs, such as the U of M, once the research/educational opportunities have concluded, will respectfully cremate your remains at their expense, and return your remains to your loved ones in the manner requested, or dispose of your remains directly (choice selected in application);
- Understand that the program has the right to reject your body or your application. There are circumstances under which they may not be able to use your body.
About 20% of my clients who wish to address their end-of-life choices also wish to consider this option. It’s not for everyone, but for some, it allows a generous last gift to an important educational opportunity that will benefit others in the future. Ask an attorney to assist you in thinking through your options, considering an application, and executing legal documents that reference your interests in writing and clearly express your wishes and your plans.
This blog is written by Bridget-Michaele Reischl, Attorney DECORO LAW OFFICE, PLLC www.decorolaw.com ALL READERS: This blog is not, nor shall it be deemed to be, legal advice or counsel. This blog does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader. It is designed to encourage thoughtful consideration of important legal issues with the expectation that readers will seek professional advice from a licensed attorney. Contact Bridget-Michaele Reischl at: DECORO LAW OFFICE, PLLC 6 West 5th Street, Suite 800-D Saint Paul, MN 55102 (651)-321-3058 [email protected]