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Donate your body to science, receive a free memorial

July 19, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
With funeral and burial costs skyrocketing, there's a new alternative: Donate your body to science and receive a free memorial in return. It's becoming a growing business in Southern California.

In Temecula, there's a new office for an expanding industry, an alternative to a traditional funeral and burial: Donate the body of a loved one or yourself to science.

"We provide a no-cost cremation. We provide a no-cost urn to support the family because we recognize it can be a very difficult time," said Garland Shreves, president of Research For Life.

Extra services are offered as demand for cadavers is up at medical and research institutions. The organization Research for Life provides bodies to train EMTs in Chandler, Arizona.

The need is widespread. Virtually every doctor in the country at some point trains on a cadaver. Human tissue is also needed to conduct research. Yet supply is limited.

By law, human bodies and parts cannot be sold in the US. However, a list from a Harvard University researcher shows many for-profit agencies. They make their money by charging for administrative services, gathering donations and passing them on to researchers.

Some, such as Research for Life, will have remains cremated and returned to loved ones.

"We try to provide personalized service to the family, which is not something that is traditional in this industry to do that," said Shreves.

It may be an attractive offer for many people. The cost of cremation in Los Angeles ranges from $700 to $2,500.

At the UCLA Donated Body Program, which is non-profit, there are restrictions on what bodies can be accepted, and the ashes all are spread at sea.

But UCLA officials caution against signing a contract with a private company, which they say could go out of business. They urge donating to an established medical institution to ensure the body will be accepted at time of need.

Another factor to consider: Whether you first want to donate organs for transplant before donating the cadaver. Some cadaver solicitors want only whole bodies.

"Look at a variety of organizations and then choose the organization they feel will best meet their needs," said Shreves.


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