As part of the funeral planning process, individuals and families are often drawn in by the idea of donating the body to science. Yet they may be surprised by how much is involved and how selective the process is.
Donating your body to science
According to the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, there are three ways to give consent for your body to be donated to train future medical professionals or for research purposes:
1) Fill out the "Donation of Body to School of Anatomy" form, available from any School of Anatomy (a complete list of these schools is available on the Ministry's website)
2) Write out your consent using this wording as specified in the Trillium Gift of Life Network Act
3) Give your consent verbally to at least two witnesses
Your next of kin (as outlined in at this section of the Trillium Gift of Life Network Act) may also give consent. For more information about the legalities behind making these decisions and having them honoured, this article on the All About Estates blog answers the question, “How do you donate your body to science?”
Even when you’ve done everything right, the medical school may not accept the donation for a variety of reasons, including weight.
Note also that if you choose to donate to science you must donate your whole body. That means you cannot donate any of your organs, tissues or other body parts to a living person who needs them to survive or thrive.
Donating your organs, tissues, eyes and hair to those in need
In Ontario, organ and tissue donation is coordinated by the Trillium Gift of Life Network. Organ donation may include heart, lung, liver, kidney and pancreas.
Tissue donation may include skin, bone, cardiovascular tissue (heart valves and veins), connective tissue and corneas (tissue from the eye). Whole eyes can also be donated through the Eye Bank of Canada.
One of our families donated their daughter’s beautiful hair to a service called Angel Hair for Kids, where they turn hair into wigs for children who have lost hair due to cancer, burns or other medical issues. The family received a lovely certificate of appreciation and that created a special tribute to their daughter who had died.
(Living people can also donate hair to this worthy organization – see http://www.acvf.ca/index.php/our-programs/angel-hair-for-kids/make-a-difference/ for more details.)
The families we’ve worked with have been very proud when their loved one was able to help 5-6 different people through organ and tissue donation.
This is a personal decision you must make yourself. The important thing is to inform your loved ones of your choice. So be sure to sign your donor card, sign up as a donor online at the Trillium website and/or discuss the issue with your family so they know your feelings about it. This is also something you can include when pre-planning your funeral.