There is an urgent need for human tissue and body donations, and a long list of medical breakthroughs have occurred because of body donation programs. For example, conducting research using human samples has led to discoveries and training in the treatment of cancer and diabetes. Human tissue is used to train doctors and surgeons and helps researchers test new protocols and medication safety.
Body donation programs can reduce the number of animals used in scientific or medical research, which is of growing concern for many people, including a consortium of scientists and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
United Tissue Network (UTN) coordinates body donation programs in Arizona and Florida and works directly with funeral homes to make the process seamless. In this article, we discuss how funeral homes need to handle bodies for science donation, the financial and ethical benefits of body donation for funeral homes and clients, and answer common questions about the process, which is information funeral directors need to counsel and explain body donation programs to family members.
Learning About Body Donation
There’s nothing quite like human tissue when studying the body. Medical professionals rely on generous donors to improve patient outcomes. A whole-body donation could lead to longevity, recovery, and other benefits related to illnesses and injuries. Human tissue is especially important for students and researchers for training and education. Using cadavers allows surgical students and medical professionals to train more realistically and test new medical techniques and devices to ensure they can be used safely on living patients.
Benefits of Body Donation Programs for Funeral Homes
Funeral homes can realize benefits from body donation while also offering additional options for clients that can provide additional comfort or ease financial burdens.
Body donation can relieve some of the funeral home’s administrative burden. For example, UTN body donation programs in Arizona handle the paperwork and filing of death certificates. This helps funeral homes reduce processing time and enables them to spend more time with families.
Broadening Your Client Base
Whole body donation programs reduce the overall cost of services, allowing funeral homes to provide packages that appeal to budget-minded families with competitive pricing.
Others may be looking for a minimal solution, such as those without a next of kin or loved ones nearby.
At the same time, you can meet the needs of families with specific religious preferences through expanded offerings. For example, some religions and cultures have strict prohibitions against embalming. Other families are concerned about the environmental impact of traditional burial. Body donations provide an eco-friendly option without embalming or burial waste.
Helping Families in Financial Need
UTN pays the cost of cremation, which can be a challenge for families in need. By reducing the cost of cremation, you are providing an important service to those who are uninsured or underinsured or do not have the financial means to pay for funeral expenses.
At the same time, you can focus on memorial services or burials to generate revenue while making overall arrangements more affordable.
Providing a Special Experience
For families that do not have a financial need, you can direct expenses that would have gone to cremation towards other areas to make the experience more special and personalized while also improving profitability.
Providing Additional Comfort
In their time of need, many loved ones struggle with complex emotions. Donating bodies advances medical science, which can provide additional comfort to families in distress, knowing that some good will come out of their loss.
Human tissue is used for preclinical research to evaluate the safety and efficacy of certain drugs and practices and is also valuable for genetic research and genomics to study genetic variations and identify disease-related genes.
How Should Funeral Homes Handle Bodies for Science Donation?
Funeral homes should contact UTN and verify that the consent paperwork has been completed and UTN has accepted the body. Bodies should be refrigerated to preserve them for transportation but should not be embalmed. UTN has a list of accredited medical facilities and organizations that are in need of bodies and tissue samples for training doctors and surgeons, medical device development, and medical and pharmaceutical research.
UTN will arrange for transportation. Funeral homes will want to ensure the appropriate paperwork is presented to pick up the body, and they get a receipt from the organization for the donors (if applicable).
Throughout the process, funeral homes should stay in touch with families and update them on timeframes and progress. Since this process is new to most families, additional questions may arise. Providing consistent updates can help families feel that there is an orderly process and demonstrates your attention to detail in caring for their loved one.
Helping the Bereaved Donate a Body
As a funeral director, part of your role involves discussing sensitive information and helping clients make informed choices, which includes the option of body donation. While some families find this idea alarming initially, you can explain how donating to a body donation program can be a meaningful choice that benefits others.
When introducing this option, find an appropriate opening in the conversation, such as when discussing costs and final arrangements.
Families should understand that body donation is an option, but they are not obligated or pressured to participate. If they are interested, be prepared to talk them through the process. Typical questions may include:
- What happens to the body?
- What happens to the remains?
- What impact does this have on costs?
Funeral homes should have answers to these questions and be prepared to share anything else families need to know. You can discuss body donation options and find out what services are available in your area by talking to dedicated specialists at United Tissue Network.
Families may need guidance to understand the consent paperwork and how the process works, including filling out paperwork and coordinating the process with UTN.
Body Donation After Death
UTN works directly with funeral homes to handle the arrangements in an ethical and dignified manner, including coordination with any organ donation groups to ensure all viable organs are directed to patients with transplant needs.
When the research has been completed, UTN will coordinate transportation to the crematorium. After cremation, UTN coordinates with patients to pass on the remains.
What are the Best Body Donation Organizations?
When thinking about body donation organizations, there may be options. However, you should be aware that there are for-profit companies that sell body parts. Unfortunately, many of these organizations promise to use donations for medical purposes but do not follow through. According to the FBI, there is little oversight on the marketplace.
To ensure body donations are handled properly and used for appropriate research and training, funeral homes should only work with 501(c)(3) nonprofit agencies, like United Tissue Network (UTN). UTN is the only non-profit organization accepting body donations in Arizona and Florida.
UTN pays the costs associated with transporting the body to a qualified research or medical facility, making sure the facility meets stringent standards for how body donations will be used. After the research is complete, UTN manages the cremation of the body and provides copies of certified death certificates.
Body Donation Eligibility
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to furthering medical research and education through body donation, UTN has more flexibility in which clients it can accept, such as upper-age, cancer, or dementia patients. If a client is 18 years or older and does not have a communicable disease such as hepatitis or HIV, most patients can qualify.
Acceptance into the program requires a medical history. Once a donation is approved, United Tissue Network handles all associated expenses of donating the body to science, including transferring the body to a UTN facility, locating appropriate scientific testing, research, or training facilities, and cremating the remains. UTN also works with organ donation groups to ensure all usable organs are directed to patients in need.
Is There Body Donation in Arizona?
Where Can I Find Body Donation in Florida?
Body Donation Program Near Me
Finding a body donation program near you that you feel comfortable working with is not as easy as it might seem. Contact United Tissue Network to discuss your options. If we are unable to help you, we can refer you to other organizations that could help.
Body donation programs fulfill an important need in helping scientists, researchers, and doctors test and train. Presenting body donation as an option for your clients can provide them peace of mind, knowing their loved one’s passing will have a lasting impact.
Contact United Tissue Network at (877) 738-6111 to learn more. We have the information you need to provide compassionate care for your clients and discuss body donation programs confidently to help them make an informed decision.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some FAQs that funeral directors often ask, along with the answers for review. If you still have questions about how the process works, please contact the UTN team.
What is the cost of body donation?
UTN covers 100% of the cost of transporting bodies, arrangements with research facilities, and the cremation of the remains. There is no payment to the family, which can ease their financial burden.
How does body donation affect funeral plans?
Body donation replaces the need for embalming, but families can still hold memorial services and request the burial of remains if desired. Costs for any services, burial, or other arrangements will not be covered by UTN.
How is the body handled?
Body donations are handled with respect and dignity throughout the donation process.
How long does it take to get cremated remains returned?
Families have the option to ask for cremated remains to be returned within four to six weeks, one to two years, or disposed of properly by UTN. We encourage families to pick up cremated remains at local offices. If this is not suitable, remains can be sent via certified mail to a personal residence or the funeral home.
Is there an age limit on body donations?
UTN accepts body donations from adults 18 years of age and older, including upper ages. As a nonprofit, UTN has different criteria than some for-profit organizations. This allows donations by clients that have diseases such as cancer, dementia, and diabetes. Although acceptance into the program requires a medical review, generally, the only automatic disqualifiers are those with a history of a communicable disease, such as HIV or hepatitis.
Can families pre-register for body donation?
UTN works with hospice centers for end-of-life care, so families may pre-register and provide a medical history to determine acceptance. Once an individual is accepted into the body donation program, they will receive a Donor Security Certificate, which guarantees acceptance into the program regardless of any changes in health.
Funeral homes can contact United Tissue Network to initiate the body donation process if a family has already pre-registered and been accepted.
How do you protect privacy?
UTN believes in confidentiality for donors and researchers. To maintain confidentiality, donors are assigned a unique ID number that is used for all forms of communication other than with the donor’s family.
Who can authorize a body donation?
If someone has not been pre-registered for body donation, authorization is covered by the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA), which allows the surviving relatives to authorize donations.