Can I Still Donate My Body to Science if I am Going to be Cremated?

The simple answer to this question is yes. However, it is important to understand the facts and to make appropriate plans in advance to ensure that your wishes are properly carried out.


Different Types of Donations

Many people consider anatomical donations as a way of helping both living and future generations. The simplest way is to register as an organ and tissue donor through the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Your driver’s license will have a heart symbol to identify you as an organ donor, and you will be entered into the Massachusetts Donor Registry. You can also register directly at Donate Life New England at According to the Donate Life New England website, “Registration can help you save and heal the lives of up to 8 people through organ donation and 75 people with tissue donation. For those awaiting heart, lung, kidney, liver, pancreas and other transplants, you can be their superhero.” Anyone over 18 can register regardless of health or medical history.


Another way of donating your body to science is called whole body donation. An Instrument of Anatomical Gift form must be completed by the individual wishing to make the donation, and this form must be properly witnessed and submitted to the medical school of choice. UMass Medical, Tufts, Harvard and Boston Universities all accept whole body donations.


Brain donations are another type of donation you may wish to consider and it is important to know that this is not compatible with organ donation, and must be done through the National Institute of Health’s centralized NeuroBioBank. The Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center in Waltham is part of this network.


What happens to My Body After the Donation is Fulfilled?

Bodies donated to medical schools may be kept for varying lengths of time. Once the research is completed, the body of your loved one will typically be cremated at no cost to you, and your loved one will be returned to the next of kin.


Of course, you can still have a meaningful memorial service or graveside service for your loved one. Your funeral director will help you plan for whatever type of service best meets your needs, based on your individual situation, the wishes of the deceased and the needs of your family.


Donation Decisions are Typically Made Prior To Death

Since most facilities require not only the signature of the donor, but up to three family members also, it is extremely important to discuss your intention with your family and your funeral director. Our experienced directors are all trained to help you learn the appropriate facts and help you determine how best to proceed.


Additionally, it is important to note that there are no guarantees that your donation will be accepted since it is impossible to foretell what the conditions will be at the time. In that case, you will need alternative arrangements, and once again, your funeral director can help you make sure that all is in order to proceed according to your wishes.


We welcome your calls and questions at any time at (781) 595-1492.

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