When I Die

From Wikipedia; this image is in the public domain because the copyright has expired.

When I die (which I hope will not happen for many, many years), if things go according to what I am in the midst of planning, representatives of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Willed Body Program will pick up my body. The medical school will harvest usable organs for transplants.  The rest of my body will be used for research, training, etc. by the medical school.  I expect to sign the appropriate documents before witnesses, within the next few weeks.

Unless otherwise directed by the donor when signing the agreement, after completion of the medical use of the body, UT Southwestern Medical center cremates the remains and inters them, anonymously, in the Memorial Garden on the university campus.  Done.  No fuss, no bother, no funeral, no expense.

I am writing this both as a record of my wishes and as a platform to suggest that others consider the same.  Here are my reasons:

  • There is a real need for human bodies for medical training and research.
  • I do not anticipate needing my body after I die.
  • There will be no cost to my family; the ability to plan so my death will not require any funeral, cremation, or other disposal expenses is a good thing, in my opinion…I will be a skinflint even in death!

The range for the cost of a full funeral in the Austin, Texas area (I could find no such figures for DFW) was $2,600 to $7,200.  That excludes a casket (which ranged in price from $600 to $3,500) and “related services.”  According to the figures I found, those costs range, on average, from $4,000 to $8,000.  I have nothing against funeral directors and others involved in the death industry; they serve a need and help people get through tough times.  I would rather that kind of money be put to more productive use in the family, though.  I hope my family and friends will get through the tough time by coming together to celebrate life!

I consider the last “act,” the use of one’s body for research and training that might save lives or make them more bearable, a better way to leave a legacy than serving as support for a headstone.  Many people would disagree.  I only hope the idea is at least given a bit of consideration.

I’m off my soapbox now.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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7 Responses to When I Die

  1. Oh! I don’t think I’d recommend witnessing cremation…but then no one will listen to me, anyway!

  2. kathy a. says:

    i’m behind, as always! i’ve been an organ donor since i was 16, so coming up on 40 years; but i hadn’t thought about a full body donation. need to think on that.

    i am not a full casket + burial person; my preference is cremation, and everybody knows that. and i strongly do not want my folks to be at the cremation! (this would never have occurred to me, but my stepmother wanted to be there after my dad died, so my sibs and i went along; and it was only somewhat weird until the cremation dude opened the door to the oven, and the flames burst up. that part was no good.)

    like your thought about family + friends coming together to celebrate your life.

  3. Trish, glad I prompted you to think about his. Phil, I don’t know how I didn’t consider it… Robin, that article is fantastic! I love it. And in a “civilized world,” we’d let nature take care of the matter! Geraldine, I’m more of a leg person, too.

  4. I once entered a large room at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons to see dozens of surgeons working on lower legs to learn new techniques. It was uplifting to view. The legs looked good, too. I turned down the opportunity at a hospital where I worked to look in the refrigerator to view the heads ready for dissection. I never regretted that; I’m sure they wouldn’t have looked as good as the legs.

  5. robin andrea says:

    Here’s some information you might find useful.


    I wish it were more environmentally friendly to be cremated because that was my first choice. I do like the idea of feeding animals, though.

  6. Phil says:

    Unless it’s needed for nourishment. Soylent Green is people!

  7. druxha says:

    John, this is a great concept. I’d thought of it in passing, however, I did not know know all the facts that you’ve provided here. Now knowing this, I’m more convinced than ever that this is a strong possibility for my demise also. Thank you for this one!

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