Whole body and organ donation

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When a newspaper reports a person’s death, the report will occasionally state that financial contributions to help cover the funeral expenses will be appreciated by the family.
Understandably, many families of the deceased need financial assistance considering the cost of funerals. When visitations at funeral homes and burial of the body are included, costs are substantial, having risen from $708 in 1960 to between $7,000 and $10,000 today. A breakdown of average costs are as follows. Funeral Director’s fee, $1,500; casket, $2,000; embalming, $500; use of funeral home for service, $500; grave site, $1,000; grave digger, $600; grave liner $1,000; headstone, $1,500; burial clothing, $90 to $400; hearse or funeral coach, $300 to $400.
Cremation is considerably less expensive, if there is no viewing or visitation, range between $2,000 and $4,000, but can reach $8,000.
A much more reasonable approach to disposing of a deceased loved one’s body, in my opinion, is one I have chosen. If, following my death, my body is intact and has not been subjected to an autopsy, it will be picked up by the University of Alabama Medical School and transported to Birmingham, where it will be used for research and/or for teaching medical students about human anatomy. My estate will be charged between $600 and $800 for transportation. When my body is no longer useful, it will be cremated, and my ashes will be buried in a cemetery owned by the school, or, if  my family prefers, the ashes will be sent to them in a package. My obituary will be no longer than a paragraph, and death certificates can be obtained for a minimal price.
I chose this option as opposed to registering as an organ/tissue donor for two reasons. I’m 83 now and a cancer survivor. Because of these or for some other reasons, medical personnel may conclude that my organs and tissues are not useful. Second, after any useful organs or tissues are removed, which will take place in a hospital, my family will have to deal with whatever remains of my corpse. I prefer that when I die, my death will be dealt with as effortlessly as possible and with minimal inconvenience to anyone.
Whole bodies are badly needed for research and teaching, and as nearly as I can determine, demand exceeds supply. Why so many people refuse to be whole body donors is a mystery to me. Even more mysterious is why nearly everyone who declines to be a whole body donor does not register to be an organ donor on their driver’s license or convey that desire to their next of kin. Polls suggest that 90 percent or more people believe it’s a good idea, yet only about 60 percent indicate their willingness to be organ donors. Currently, about 120,000 people are on waiting lists for organs or tissues. Eleven thousand die each year while awaiting a donation. In 2013, 61 percent of living donors were women, but only 39 percent were men. For deceased donors, however, 41 percent were women, while 59 percent were men.
Many seeking transplants travel to foreign countries and pay for their organs. China, India, and Pakistan are favored destinations, where organs are readily available with short waiting periods. The shortage of organs and lengthy waiting periods and  deaths of those awaiting could be drastically reduced in the U. S. were it not for the National Transplant Act (Pub. Law 98-507), which forbids buying or selling of organs or tissues. Iran began paying kidney donors in 1988, and after 11 years became the only country in the world to clear its waiting list for kidney transplants.
A majority of the voters in Colorado, Washington, and Alaska approved the sale of marijuana for recreational use and obviously subscribe to the libertarian mantra, “I own my body, and I should be able to do with it as I see fit.” I’m surprised they haven’t  tried to make a case for repealing Public Law 98-507. To me, that would make more sense than legalizing pot for recreational use. It would result in lives being saved, whereas use of marijuana by people under the age of 25 results in a malfunction of their brains.
Bob Mount is a Professor Emeritus with the Department of Zoology and Entomology at Auburn University. He is also chairman of the Opelika Order of Geezers, well-known local think tank and political clearing house. He writes about birds, snakes, turtles, bugs and assorted conservation topics.

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