Throughout our lives, we serve many functions and purposes. Sibling, friend, teammate, spouse, parent, teacher, manager, counselor, muse—the list goes on. Once we die, outside of memories, our purpose seems to end...but it doesn’t necessarily have to. Yes, we can serve an immensely beneficial purpose once we die through a program called “whole body donation.”

What is Whole Body Donation?

Whole-body donation is the arranged act of donating one’s body “to science” after death. Once someone dies, their bodies are immediately transported from the site of death to the medical school of their choice or following funeral services. Bodies donated to medical schools are used for educational purposes for both medical students as well as experienced doctors for continuing education or surgical training.

Why Should I Consider Whole Body Donation?

No Substitution for a Real Body

Modern technological innovation in the sphere of medical training and research has made incredible strides in the development of educational tools and materials. Though this is the case, there is no educational substitution for a real human body. For aspiring doctors, many consider the body used to help them learn an array of functions to be their first patient. One cadaver can provide incredible insights about the human body that will help a doctor throughout their career. Other bodies donated for continued surgical training for experienced doctors will reduce the number of treatment errors for living patients. The educational input provided by one donated body can save countless lives over the careers of these doctors.

Cost Saving Measure for Final Resting

If losing a loved one wasn’t hard enough, funerals, cremations, and burials are among some of the most expensive services most of us will ever pay for. According to, the average North American funeral and burial cost anywhere from $7,000-$10,000. Though medical schools do not pay for bodies donated to their institutions in keeping with Federal law, most will cover the costs associated with laying to rest the donated bodies. Though the remains of most donated bodies are cremated, special arrangements can be made for the remains to be buried. This option may vary depending on the chosen institution.

How to Elect for Whole Body Donation

If you or a loved one are interested in donating your body to science, it is encouraged that you contact the medical school of your choice directly. This recommendation is to eliminate the chances of the improper usage of a donated body by a third-party intermediary service. Medical schools that accept donated bodies strive to make the body donation process as easy as possible for the next of kin. The department responsible for receiving donated bodies can help families make the necessary legal and administrative arrangements that will ensure a stress-free donation process. To further streamline the process and remove complications, arrangements should be made ahead of time as much as possible.

Who is Eligible for Body Donation?

There exists a common misconception that someone who is incredibly old or who experienced a traumatic disease cannot donate their body to science. Though some bodies will be denied from the program, these typically only include rare instances—possible communicable disease, extreme obesity, autopsy, or other reasons a body cannot be used for education purposes. Individual medical institutions set the criteria for donation eligibility.

Will My Body Be Treated With Respect?

Though most medical institutions cannot disclose the specific use of each donated body, they can assure family members that their loved one’s remains are treated with the utmost respect. Despite possible dissections or surgical training sessions, all honor and dignity possible are granted from the moment a body is received until it has adequately served its purpose and is ready for cremation or burial. Students are typically “introduced” to their assigned cadaver as one might meet a study partner. Many institutions have a concluding ceremony to honor those who have donated their bodies. Some students write thank-you letters to the families of those who have given their bodies. The entire process is treated with the highest honor, dignity, and respect.

Whole Body Donation in Oklahoma

If you’re interested in whole-body donation in Oklahoma, here are a few helpful links to help you begin the process.

Willed Body Program - OU Medicine

Body Donor Program - OSU Medical Center

  • Email or (918) 561-8446

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