Cadaver disposal on the cheap.
August 11, 2005 11:49 PM   Subscribe

I'm young, not religious, and I am convinced that when I'm dead, I'm dead. I don't care what happens to my remains when I eventually die, but I'm wondering: what's the cheapest, legal way to dispose of my body? I live in Chicago, and from my research, even to donate my body to science or to have it cremated would cost over a grand. Any other options? I just don't want to be a burden to my survivors.
posted by andshewas to Shopping (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You could set aside some money to be used for the disposal of your body when you die.
posted by lazy-ville at 12:54 AM on August 12, 2005

As far as cost is concerned, what about a simple term life policy? Term insurance is an inexpensive policy that pays a flat amount at death to whoever you list as beneficiaries. If you are in your twenties, a simple term policy that would pay $10,000.00 can be secured for $30 a YEAR, $50, 000 for $60 per YEAR. If you are only worried about burial expenses, some companies will go as low as $5,000.00 for next to nothing. There's really no reason not to get better policies - they are dirt cheap right now. After burial, leave a load to a favorite charity or organization. Many people do not realize how inexpensive term insurance really is. A man in his forties, and in good health, can get a $100,000.00 policy for as little as $8.00 - yes, that's eight bucks - a month. Security for your family - or a nice chunk to a charity.
posted by Independent Scholarship at 1:08 AM on August 12, 2005

What about donating your cadaver to one of those body farms where forensic scientists leave corpses outside and record how they decay in various conditions? I can't imagine they'd have any overheads beyond collecting your body. All they do is prop you against a tree or put you in a sack with some bricks and chuck you into a lake. Your selfless act could help solve a grizzly murder from beyond the grave. Bwahahaha.
posted by PurpleJack at 1:16 AM on August 12, 2005

First, I would suggest dying when you're old. This will give you more time to consider the possibilities, as well as have some fun along the way.

Second, once you're dead what you think happens to you doesn't matter any more. Those "survivors" you don't want to be a burden to? Talk to them about what they'd like.
posted by skyscraper at 1:54 AM on August 12, 2005

People, it seems to me that spending money (insurance, savings, whatever) is exactly what andshewas is trying to avoid.

I dunno, there have to be almost free solutions, people with zero financial means die all the time. You could try not to die at home of course. They can't really charge your survivors with the bill for picking up your body off the street... I guess they could charge your estate though, that would suck...

skyscraper has a good point. Your survivors deserve some consideration. That doesn't mean you have to just listen to everything they say, but there isn't any point going out of your way to make them unhappy and uncomfortable.
posted by Chuckles at 2:29 AM on August 12, 2005

Call the medical schools. They sometimes take cadavers for teaching purposes. You arrange that in advance, of course.

If you talk to your potential survivors, I doubt they will tell you they want to dispose of you in the cheapest manner, even if that is what they want.

Could you guys maybe read the question? As Chuckles points out, spending money is precisely not the answer to it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:18 AM on August 12, 2005

There was a question related to this on Ask Yahoo! some time ago: Here

This is one of the sites they recommend. I had a look at it then, and even if you don't go through them, there is a lot of good information there.

Aside: I saw a documentary on the original body farm, and found out that since it has become a feature in pop culture, too many people are trying to donate!
posted by monopas at 3:42 AM on August 12, 2005

I just remembered a story from a couple of months ago. Something to do with improperly(?) acquired cadavers being used in an art exhibit. Here is the story I heard - part 3 is all about corpses as art. Not that I am suggesting it, but it is on topic.
posted by Chuckles at 4:05 AM on August 12, 2005

Funerals are not for the deceased. They are gone already. Funerals are for the survivors. Don't do something stupid which will deny them a last chance to remember you. It is not just the money, but the emotional recovery. I think it is fine to express that you want something which will burden them the least, but let them decide how far to take it. By then you will be dead.
posted by caddis at 4:33 AM on August 12, 2005

My uncle was left to science. When science was finished, they returned him to my cousins, who were really quite surprised.

Read the fine print if you decide that route.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:34 AM on August 12, 2005

I was an Anatomy TA last year, and our donation program was free. I'd be surprised if UChicago/Northwestern/Finch/UIC/Loyola isn't similar.

It works something like this--you sign a contract with the medical school, and then when you die, a family member or the doctor calls the school, and a representative picks up the body, embalms it, and refrigerates it for next year's anatomy course, medical procedures course, or resident training course. When the team is done using your body, it is cremated, and the ashes are given back to your family (if you want). Even if those med schools don't use cadavers anymore in Anatomy, surgeons are always needing limbs and heads to practice repairing.

A couple stipulations: you generally have to die without major trauma and be infectious pathogen-free. All bodies are now routinely tested for HIV, HepB/C, and a host of other blood-borne pathogens.
posted by gramcracker at 4:49 AM on August 12, 2005

In Utah (too many of my answers start with that phrase) it's legal to bury someone in your backyard. That's gotta be cheap. Perhaps other states have similar laws. There are entire books on bypassing the funeral industry but names escape my. I know the Millenium Whole Earth Catalog lists at least one.

You could also build your own coffin/coffee table out of scrap, use it for storage or whatever until you need it.
posted by mecran01 at 5:44 AM on August 12, 2005

Destroy all forms of identification on your person and then travel to a major city. You'll be homeless. But then you can just go ahead and die and not worry about it. Eventually the stink will be noticed and you'll be carted off to a morgue and finally be bury in an unmarked grave in a city cemetary. The public will pick up the tab.
posted by nixerman at 6:30 AM on August 12, 2005

I also thought of the Body Farm (which is one of the places I think I'd like to go). If you live within 200 miles of Knoxsville, Tennessee, it's free. I suspect that, since it is a university project (and from what others are saying), the other university/medical programs that have been suggested probably have similar policies. If you don't live that close to Knoxsville, contact close universities and find out if they have programs.
posted by carmen at 6:34 AM on August 12, 2005

Plastination! Dr. Gunther von Hagens awaits your application.
posted by planetkyoto at 6:34 AM on August 12, 2005

Well, several people in your "legal" link discuss various ways of chopping/dissolving a body. Utter morbidity aside, what's the legality of doing this to someone who dies of natural causes?
posted by mkultra at 7:08 AM on August 12, 2005

You might want to look at... dying in such a way as to not leave any remains.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:49 AM on August 12, 2005

Last night we determined (in bed! which is worse, pillow talk about cheaply disposing of your mortal remains, or posting to askme about said pillow talk?) that in Illinois, the medical schools have banded together and formed the Anatomical Gift Association of Illinois. All dead-body philanthropy goes through them. It's a cadaver cartel! The AGAI reminds us often on their website:
Inform your family about your decision. When the time comes, they will need to make arrangements with a funeral director to have your body transported to the AGAI. It will be helpful if they know what is expected of them in arranging for your generous gift.
We've both read "The American Way of Death" and according to that shocking expose, having a funeral director move your useless carcass around is just as expensive as having them pump it full of goo and show it off to your friends. Indeed, even the Cremation Society of Illinois, ostensibly dedicated to cheap, classy ways of getting rid of the body, charges $1095 to haul your body off to the resurrectionists.

I understand that this is because of Illinois state law, which requires that only a licensed funeral director (or someone supervised by such) can move a body (225 ILCS 41/1‑15). How can we get around this system? We'd prefer to use the money to buy a few rounds of posthumous drinks for our friends, or to get a decent band for the wake.
posted by tew at 8:31 AM on August 12, 2005

Here in Calgary you can join a burial society (one time cost of $20) who contracts with a funeral home for set discount rates. Right now their cheapest plan (B1) is $585. Unless you can hook up with some one willing to DIY I can't imagine getting much cheaper than that. I'd check to see if there is a more local society than the Illinois one you linked to. Many of these societies also allow you to pre-pay their by locking in the present rate and ensuring your estate doesn't have to scramble.
posted by Mitheral at 8:34 AM on August 12, 2005

You should not mistake the fact that something has a cost with the idea that it has a cost To You. Organ donation, for example, costs something - a doctor has to be paid to harvest them, people are paid to transport them, lab techs are paid to test the organ and that little portable cooler and the ice aren't free, you know. But the cost is picked up by the recipient or a foundation or charity.

Everything has a cost even if it's not obvious to you. Why should dragging your decaying carcass be any different?

You can also get around some of the expense if you're willing to flout the law, and you should - many are stupid. Florida, for example, requires that all bodies are embalmed. Even if they're going straight into the crematorium. So my brother and I have a pact that the one of us who survives longer will toss the other into the ocean, if possible.

And it often is. When our grandmother died the paramedics came, examined and pronounced her dead.... then said see ya, you can call a service and make arrangements to pick up the body. So part of the plan is: die at home. Not just peaceful, it's a money saver.
posted by phearlez at 9:06 AM on August 12, 2005

There are some religions that forbid embalming. What do those folks do in Florida?
posted by small_ruminant at 9:37 AM on August 12, 2005

They can't really charge your survivors with the bill for picking up your body off the street... I guess they could charge your estate though, that would suck...

Actually, they can, and do. Bodies are transported via ambulances when there is an autopsy to be done, and often even when there isn't. The fees for that "last ride" are tacked in there somewhere along the lines in Chicago.

I'm sorry I no longer have the paperwork handy for my moms death, but I do recall seeing that fee on the big list of fees that I couldn't believe I had to pay for.

I once had a first date with someone and railed on about making sure her parents had life insurance. Bless her that she agreed to go out with me again!
posted by FlamingBore at 1:27 PM on August 12, 2005

I thought I'd left a suggestion that one go out with a bang, and take out a dictator at the same time. Maybe it was deleted for being wholly tasteless.

But it was sincere.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:19 PM on August 12, 2005

I know 2 people that donated their bodies to medical schools. No cost. Their bodies are to be picked up, eventually cremated, and returned to whoever you specify (if you want).

To do this you sign paperwork in advance and instruct a person you trust to make a call.
posted by steve45750 at 8:28 PM on August 12, 2005

I would like to add a vote for donation to medical schools. I am very grateful to the 82-year-old deceased lady who taught me more about human anatomy than any other person living or dead.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:39 PM on August 12, 2005

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