Re-Purposing You. The Gift of Life Through Donation

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Mortui Prosumus Vitae
Even in Death, Do We Serve Life

Saving lives, paying it forward, increasing knowledge, and helping others… All noble pursuits, though not many of us can say we’ve actually saved a life. Even fewer have saved multiple lives. The donation of you and or your parts provides an opportunity to improve both the health and well-being of future generations… Sound good?

Updated February 27, 2020

But Why Donate?

It’s the ultimate gift. A single donor can benefit more than 75 people and save up to 8 lives.

We don’t typically pause to think about donation, but we should. Nearly 114,000 people in the United States alone are currently on the waitlist for a lifesaving organ transplant. In fact, another name is added to the national transplant waiting list every 10 minutes. Sadly, an average of 20 people die every day from the lack of available organs for transplant.

And, the toll extracted by the suffering of those and their families waiting for the call that never comes is enormous. And if more of us took action today, we would change the course of that tide.

In Canada, it’s not much different. As of 2018, 20.6 donors (like you) per million were registered in Canada, and while that represents an increase of 42% since 2009, it’s not enough. At the end of 2018, there were 4,351 people on a waiting list for an organ transplant.

In fact, over 1,600 Canadians are added to organ wait lists yearly. An astonishing 90% majority of Canadians support organ and tissue donation BUT less than 20% have actually made plans to donate.

Help is Here! is here to help with that. This easy-to-use website helps people and their families build and share plans for end-of-life (EOL)events. Beyond planning many of the practical aspects of passing, this platform encourages users to create and file a plan for donation and also guides them through the process. Within the seven key steps, The Big Event section focuses on the logistics of passing and the details therein.

About Organ and Tissue Donation

The donation you make has the potential to make a critical difference in the lives of 22 people who truly need your help. Organs that can be donated after death include the heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, pancreas and small intestines. The most needed and commonly transplanted organ are kidneys.

Tissues that are regularly needed include corneas, skin, veins, heart valves, tendons, ligaments and bones. In fact, the most commonly transplanted tissue is the cornea, with more than 40,000 corneal transplants taking place each year in the United States.

Liver and kidney disease kills more than 120,000 people each year. That’s more than Alzheimer’s, breast cancer, or prostate cancer. The need is real!

Whole Body Donation

While organ and tissue donation is more common, whole body is less so, but the need is real here too. Although there is a growing awareness that body donations to universities are essential for education and research, many people simply do not take steps to have the paperwork in place in advance of their passing. Donating your body is a generous act that ensures future medical professionals gain much needed skills and knowledge. And, ashes or cremains can often by returned to your family at a later date.

Body donation must be done well in advance. Filing basic paperwork with a donor program (usually a medical school located within a university) is easily done.

Follow the steps in CheckOutPlan’s “The Big Event” section in the Mortal Remains folder. Your team will know to notify the donor program immediately following your passing. Upon acceptance, professionals will be sent to collect your remains and transport it back to the medical school or institution. There may be a cost associated with this process.

If you think that whole body donation may be right for you, read on to learn the basic steps of donating your body to science. You really can re-purpose your remains as a life-saving instrument, fueling advances in medical science. More on this a bit later.

What You Might Not Know

If you’re determined to donate, that’s wonderful! It is also helpful to understand that there are several factors that might prohibit a successful donation. Here’s an overview:

Acceptability: Once you’ve taken the steps to donate, there are several factors that determine whether your “gifts” will be selected for use at the time. Organ recipients are selected based primarily on medical need, location and compatibility. Click here for more details about organ allocation by organ type.

Cost: There may be costs associated with the handling and transport of your body in the case of whole body donation. These costs would need to be covered by your estate. Consult with an estate lawyer to confirm. However, costs associated with recovering and processing organs and tissues for transplant are never passed on to the donor family. Costs may be incurred by medical expenses before death is declared and for funeral arrangements.

Health: The cause of you demise is a critical factor in determining what parts will be acceptable. For example, death by cancer or other disease process may render your body largely not suited for transplant. Advanced age or damage would be additional challenges. Regardless, everyone is encouraged to join a registry in case conditions and or demand permit for lifesaving donations regardless.

Need: Donations are accepted based on need. Since the window of opportunity is short, the timing of your donation may be a factor.

Size and More: The physical size of the donor and potential recipient are assessed at the time to make the decision to proceed with transplant.

But Why Wait?: A healthy person can become a ‘living donor.’ You can apply to donate a kidney, or a part of the liver, lung, intestine, blood or bone marrow while healthy and vital. By taking control and deciding to make a difference today, you can ensure your donations are not ravaged by time, disease or trauma. It is perhaps, ultimate act in heroism.

How it Works

Donors and recipients are typically brought together through registries. While there are national registries, beware of the private registries which often profit from the sale (rather than donation) of organ, bone and tissue donations. These websites are often cleverly disguised, so, be aware. Here are the official Us and Canadian registries:

In the United States:

In Canada: Every province has its own system for registering potential donors. In most provinces, it’s as simple as filling out a form online, though some still have a paper-based process:

The website has information on how to register in each province. Make sure to file your acceptance paperwork in The Big Event section of

Body Donation Programs

Each country and every university’s medical school offer slightly different steps for body donation. Taking steps now to ensure you are listed a registered donor is essential to making a successful donation. A web search or a phone call will let you know if the university you’re interested in has a Body Donation Program and what their procedure is. Chances are that where you live, there’s a school of anatomy somewhere nearby.

Distance is one of the most important factors to consider. You may want to donate to your alma mater or a local university, but when choosing a school, it’s important that it’s close to your home since transportation costs may become a factor when considering where to donate.

As the various schools have different minimum age requirements to consent to donate your body, make sure to check with the school prior to applying. In the UK, 17 years of age is the minimum while 18 is the age of consent in many places in the US and Canada. At the University of British Columbia for instance, the minimum age is 30 years old.

Logistics of Body Donation

As soon as possible after death, the executor, next of kin or Team Member you’ve assigned must contact the Body Donation Program. A few questions will determine whether the body is still acceptable for donation. Not all bodies can be accepted, depending on the cause of death and state of the body. If the body is deemed acceptable, the school’s transport service will be dispatched to collect the donor. Time is of the essence. Your body needs to arrive at the university within 48-72 hours of death, depending that particular school’s strict time-frame.

Your whole-body donation does not affect the ability to have a celebration of life or funeral service without your body being present. If you wish your loved ones to gather for a funeral service, it is important to communicate this information prior to passing. Your CheckOutPlan will show you how.

How to Apply

At some schools and in some countries, such as the UK, you must give consent prior to your death and have a witnessed copy of your consent left with your will. In the US, consent can be given after death by your legal next of kin. The school you’ve chosen will offer clear instruction on their donation policies and procedures.

Visit the list provided in Check-Out’s Mortal Remains form (located inside The Big Event section.) Once you’ve determined which university you’re donating to, download and fill out their form in duplicate. One copy goes to the university and the other is provided to your next-of-kin, executor or team member. It is helpful to leave one with your doctor as well, since your medical history will be requested by the university’s School of Medicine when the time comes.

After the Donation

Once your donation has served its purpose, many schools offer a timeframe ranging from 6 months to 3 years to return the cremains to the family. Alternatively, ashes may be interred in the school’s designated memorial garden or cemetery. However, some schools such as The University of California, Davis, do not return ashes. It may be best to consult with your family and friends when considering donation to assess their wishes as well and add them to your CheckOutPlan.

Typically, schools of anatomy offer an annual memorial service that family and friends of the donors are invited to attend. Donors and their selfless generosity are honored and remembered.

Myths About Donation

Doctors won’t work as hard to save my life if they know I’m a donor

False! Typically, doctors and nurses involved in a person’s care before death are not involved in the recovery or transplantation of donated corneas, organs or tissues.

Medical professionals are sworn to save lives when sick or injured people come to the hospital. Organ and tissue donation isn’t even considered or discussed until after death is declared.

But, I don’t want a closed casket funeral!

Organ procurement organizations treat each donor with the utmost respect and dignity, typically allowing a donor’s body to be viewed in an open casket funeral.

Many religions don’t support organ and tissue donation

Most major religions actually do support organ and tissue donation. In fact, most religions view organ and tissue donation as acts of charity and goodwill. Groups such as Donor Alliance encourage potential donors to discuss this with your spiritual advisor if you have concerns on this issue.

In Conclusion

If you feel that organ, tissue or whole body donation is right for you, now is the time to file your paperwork with your executor, next of kin and/or team member. As well, include any related documents in CheckOutPlan’s The Big Event/Mortal Remains section. With the proper preparations, your team will know what to do. As life and relationships change, so may your end-of-life plans, so know that you can always change your mind if needed. In death, platforms like Check-Out will give you a voice but life is ever-changing. Make sure that those closest to you stay current with your wishes and have them be known.

By C. Bowles for Check-Out Services Ltd. Copyright © 2019

Check-Out helps people and their families plan end-of-life events, store their memories and more. Build a thoughtful CheckOutPlan that will support your family and friends when they need it most.

To make one of the most important plans ever, visit today and take control. The family and friends of those you might save will thank you!

Copyright © 2020 Check-Out Planning Services Ltd. is approved by the Better Business Bureau

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