02/01/2013 12:22 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What Happens to Cadavers After Medical Students Are Done With Them?

This question originally appeared on Quora.
Answer by Hank Tate, Chief Internal Development Officer - AZERA Group ... and general all around "Right Hand Man" and encourager

My family has had 4 members donate their body to science. So, I'm speaking from some very close first-hand experience.

My brother was the first whose body was donated to science - about 15 years ago. From that experience and seeing how it all worked, the entire family learned of the blessing that it was to the family to donate our bodies to science. My father-in-law, my mother, my father have all now become value to medical students through their choice to donate their bodies. Most everyone else in the family has decided to follow that example for a few major reasons:

1. It is an AMAZING blessing for the family of the deceased!!!
  • No COSTS of a funeral or burial site. A MAJOR savings in money.
  • No hassle with funeral homes. The medical school arranges for the body to be picked up by a funeral home service. They take care of body.
  • Choice of whether we want the ashes returned to us after the body is finished with by the school. For some, we have received the ashes, for others, we have not. There may be a cost to have the ashes shipped back (though nominal).

2. We have a Memorial Service - not a funeral. Many people have said they appreciated that we didn't have a casket at all. Many people who come to honor the family don't like open casket.

3. We actually focused on celebrating the LIFE of the person rather than their death. For my mom and dad we had a CHANGE OF ADDRESS PARTY with balloons on the chairs and big banners reading: "Change of Address Party: Now enjoying new mansion in Heaven." Most who came said it was the best service they had ever been to. People enjoyed the positive uplifting celebration rather than the somber sad time they had seen so often.

We now encourage everyone we talk with about death and funerals to choose to donate their bodies to science. The bodies are greatly needed by the students! What we have been excited to discover is that it also blesses the family GREATLY!

Be aware that it is best to set things up with the Medical School ahead of time. The process is simplified. But, in the case of my brother, his death was unexpected, and the arrangements were made after his death. His body was held by the morgue until it was picked up.

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