How do I squeeze the most value out of my lifeless corpse?
May 5, 2008 10:02 AM   Subscribe

When I die, I want to make sure that my body is stripped down and recycled much like an automobile at the wrecking yard. How do I go about making sure this happens?

If everything goes well, I'm not going to die for a long, long time.

When the inevitable occurs, though, I want to make sure that a few things happen:

1. Every single useful part is removed and given to somebody who needs it - nothing is off limits here.
2. The rest of the body should be used for medical students to practice on (again, anything goes)
3. Is there some sort of charity that hooks necrophiliacs up with willing corpses?
4. Cheapest, least resource intensive funeral/burial possible. Is it true that when you do the whole "donate your body to science" thing that they pay for your burial?

Ok, #3 was only semi-serious, but the rest of it is legit.

I want to provide the highest possible societal value after I die.

Will the medical/funeral folks know who to contact to arrange for the above? Should I write out a letter detailing all of this?

I'm in Canada and will likely die here, for what that's worth.
posted by davey_darling to Society & Culture (15 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
A will?
posted by jerseygirl at 10:11 AM on May 5, 2008

For #2, you typically sign up directly with the medical school. It's pretty straightforward for whole cadaver (you'd be part of first-year anatomy class). I'm not actually sure, however, what they'll be able to do with you after #1.
posted by originalname37 at 10:14 AM on May 5, 2008

I'd spell this out very explicitly in a will, since, after you die, you wouldn't be able to explain any of this, and "I'd like to be an organ donor" isn't necessarily going to cover all the stuff you're willing to do.

Why not contact a nearby medical school and ask them this question? You could start by asking about #2 on your list, but then slip in that you want #1, too, and ask what they recommend. I bet they'll be able to give you some advice that most of us aren't.
posted by fogster at 10:39 AM on May 5, 2008

I think that you can include this in a health care directive which is a legal document that indicates your preferences for end-of-life treatments and designates a decision maker if you are no longer competent to decide. Your will can also specify funeral and burial preferences. (I think cremation with your ashes places in a cardboard box and then spread somewhere is the cheapest)

Make sure that your wishes are clear to your family.

Be aware that if you succeed in living long enough, you may not have many parts still healthy enough to transplant. (Doctors usually aren't going to put a 90 year heart in a 40 year old body.)
posted by metahawk at 10:44 AM on May 5, 2008

My family was discussing this last night, with maybe a less generous aim -- some kind of "composting" where the body becomes nutrients for trees or other plants. Normal burial practices seem targeted at the reverse, preserving the corpse unnaturally. Obviously, a large piece of rotting flesh needs special handling, but as metahawk points out, aged parts are not very useful and it would be nice to have an alternative to cremation.
posted by anadem at 10:58 AM on May 5, 2008

Well, here's yer composting.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:03 AM on May 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

It may depend on where you are when the time comes, I am in Florida and have recently looked into the legalities of my final arrangements by hiring an attorney and visiting 2 funereal home. Guess what...... it's not up to me. I want a simple cremation, no service, no obit. But when the time comes almost anyone who'll pay the money can do what they want. There are a couple of places that promise to have the remains in the oven before anyone can do anything else.

Imagine that.........after you are dead you have no say.
posted by misspat at 11:04 AM on May 5, 2008

Donating body parts -- I just referred someone to Humane Trauma Training the other day. These are American medical schools/medical boards, but perhaps HTT could provide you with the information for its Canadian counterpart. Other American sites that might help you find out more: Anatomy Gifts Registry, International Institute for the Advancement of Medicine and National Disease Research Interchange. (I know nothing about any of these, but they came up in another thread.) Good luck.
posted by MonkeyToes at 11:28 AM on May 5, 2008

You're going to need to talk to a professional about this (perhaps a lawyer that deals with these issues). I've heard quite often that here in Canada you don't get to decide what happens with your body, you only get to specificy if you're available for "harvesting".
posted by blue_beetle at 12:36 PM on May 5, 2008

You should talk to the local coroner's office re: donating your remains for scientific research.
posted by loiseau at 1:13 PM on May 5, 2008

blue_beetle: I've heard quite often that here in Canada you don't get to decide what happens with your body, you only get to specificy if you're available for "harvesting".

That's a weird assertion and is not true.

You can be an organ donor by the usual means (sign card/tell family) but if you want your body to be used for research or other things you have to go out of your way to ensure that. No one accidentally ends up as a cadaver or a skeleton in an art school.
posted by loiseau at 1:18 PM on May 5, 2008

I belong to Lifesharers.
posted by jara1953 at 1:56 PM on May 5, 2008

I want to provide the highest possible societal value after I die.
Seconding loiseau. Scientific research. Put it in your will: whatever the coroner determines you died of, your body is to be used in part or entirety to further the cause of research into that condition, disease, or trauma. Bear in mind that if it's something organ-specific, the researchers will probably only want that organ. You can request that the rest of your body go to general medical purposes, eg to medical schools for dissection or surgery practice, etc.

You may find that you can combine these two goals (and the organ transplant issue) by donating your corpse in its entirety to a particular medical school. Check with them, they won't mind. You probably want the chief morgue attendant, or person in charge of "cadaver collection programme" or similar.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:00 PM on May 5, 2008

The Greenest Way to Die: Liquification

I don't know how popular it is, but it seems the best way to recycle your body, at least that I have seen recently.
posted by MaHaGoN at 10:02 PM on May 5, 2008

Best answers I can give, with my handicap of being American:

1. This will only happen if you die fairly young. Old organs aren't worth much. You can, however, donate your longbones to help with folks whose bones have deteriorated due to cancer. It's a pretty invasive technique and it will keep you from being able to go with Route #2. As others have said, medical schools want complete bodies, not chunks.

3. Curious about necrophilia? I've got some old girlfriends you can call. (Wait. I'm not sure that sounds good.)

4. Cremation is the cheapest, most readily available alternative. Live long enough, though, and the wacky procedures may catch up with you. And just FYI, for the most part, when you donate your body to science, you're still responsible for the final disposition when they're done with you. IF (and it's a big if) they even want you.

Put your wishes in writing and make sure you let your loved ones know. Email me if you need more specific information.
posted by ColdChef at 7:03 PM on May 14, 2008

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