Hundreds of people donate their bodies to medical and science organizations, and experts have predicted the trend will continue in the foreseeable future as people look for alternative afterlife options. While donating a body to science can help the living, it can make it challenging for loved ones to plan a funeral. If you have to plan a funeral for someone who donated his or her body, here are a few tips to help you with the process.
Plan for a Closed Casket Funeral
The majority of organizations that accept body donations need them whole and preserved. This means the body cannot be embalmed; otherwise, the organization will reject the donation because it can't be used for the purposes for which it is needed. Unfortunately, bodies must be embalmed in order to have an open casket funeral because of the way they decompose after death. Thus, if your loved one donated his or her body to science, you must have a closed casket funeral for the person.
This can be upsetting for some people who wanted to see their friend or family member one last time. Thus, when notifying people about the funeral, be sure to let them know they won't be able to see the body so they can prepare themselves. It's also a good idea to plan on having a lot of pictures of the deceased so mourners have something to look at.
Consider a Memorial Only Event
Because the body won't be embalmed, the organization accepting the donation will want to claim the body as soon as possible so it can place the body in cold storage. Thus, you may only have a few days to plan and host the funeral. It may be possible to put the event together fairly quickly if the decedent left a will detailing his or her last wishes, because you'll be able to make quick decisions about details.
However, if the decedent didn't leave behind any instructions, you may want to consider having a memorial without the body. Though it may feel odd having a funeral without the decedent, you'll gain more time to plan the proceedings, which will take the pressure off. As an added bonus, you'll save money because you won't have to worry about picking out a coffin to hold the body and you can have the memorial service in your home or other less expensive place.
Put Money Aside for the Final Resting Place
Organizations that accept body donations typically pay to have the decedent cremated once they need for the person's body ends. Once cremated, the company will send the remains to the next of kin or whoever signed the body over to the organization. How long the organization will keep the body varies. Some will only use it for a few weeks, while others will hang onto it for a couple of years. The coordinator will let you know when you can expect to receive your loved one's cremains.
In the meantime, it's a good idea to set aside money for the person's final resting place will be (e.g. in your home or in a columbarium). The cost will vary depending on your decision. For instance, placement in a columbarium range from $750 to $2,800 and that generally doesn't include the price of the urn. However, placing the remains in a burial plot will cost between $350 and $2,500 depending on if you bury your loved one in a public or private cemetery.
For help with planning a funeral for someone who donated their body to science or make arrangement to inter cremains you received from a medical or science organization, contact a local funeral home, such as Hitzeman Funeral Home, Ltd.