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The Last Donation

Posted by terrepruitt on July 6, 2010

Throughout my day I come across a lot of things I would like to post about, but not all of them are in keeping with or even CLOSE to in keeping with health and wellness. I know I stretch sometimes, but I always write about something I have learned or something that interests me.

I just happened upon that tonight. This might not be suitable for everyone and it certainly won’t interest everyone.

I have long wanted to donate my body to science. When I am done with it I have always hoped it could help people. I watched a special tonight that really amazed and interested me and really helped confirmed that donation is a great thing. I was of the belief that it would go as a whole to a medical school, but now-a-days with so much surgery being done laparoscopically the need to practice on real tissue has greatly increased.  So an entire body is not always needed. 

I understand that this might be against some people’s religion or beliefs which is understandable. But if not, it might be something to consider.  Even though I cannot dwell on the actual details, I love to focus on what a donation can mean: saving a life or improving the quality of one.  To me that is a tremendous gift. 

There is a company here in the United States* that will take a body at no cost to the family. For a lot of people not having the cost of a funeral or anything could be a very big relief. Plus the body can be used for great things.

Body parts can be used in medical studies, in transplantations, in medical products. We could keep on giving.

All of the information on this show** was amazingly fascinating to me, but I have a feeling that not many here would care for the details. I will say that due to all of the medical advances there is an increase in demand by as much as 50% per year. With this huge increase in demand for tissue the black market is getting larger. Since only 1% of Americans donate, it is still very profitable for thieves to steal and sell.  It is awful to think that some people are profiting from stealing someone’s body.  And on top of that, if they are doing it so dishonestly they COULD be doing it with potentially diseased tissue.  This TV program hinted that if more people were to donate through legitimate sources it might help make it less profitable for the shady ones and there for less worth the risk. 

Did you know:

—Bone graphs from one person could go on to help 80 people. (That is EIGHTY people that could live a better life because ONE person decided to be generous with something they are no longer using.)

—In Britain it was illegal to practice medicine on a cadaver until 2006.

—Organs need to be retrieved while the heart is still beating, but tissue can be retrieve up to 24 hours after death.

—They can use an achilles tendon to replace a ruptured knee ligament.

—Tissue transplant includes bones, tendons, and skin.

—Donated human tissue can be used in Medical Science, Education, bio products.

*Anatomy Gifts Registry (AGR) – Tissue Broker

**The show I watched was first aired in 2008, I just watched it July, 6, 2010.  All the information in this post is from the show.

16 Responses to “The Last Donation”

  1. You never cease to amaze me, Terre!

    Thanks for the post. Although I don’t plan to donate my body upon my death, I found your post very interesting. I missed the program of which you speak.




    • Oh, Jill I found it immensely interesting. I am amazed at what the medical field can do. They showed the movement of a woman’s leg explaining why it needed to be fixed (this was the ruptured knee ligament). The movement was so abmormal that I couldn’t look. It was such a drastic movement from how the leg is supposed to move, she was already under anesthesia so the doctor was able to show the full extent of the movement without causing her pain. RIGHT after he put in the tendon – the incision wasn’t even closed, the tools were still in her knee he did the same thing to the calf to show you how stable it was. It was amazing. It was a keyhold incision and boom that woman’s life will be dramatically improved. The way her leg used to move HAD to be painful and scary. Her leg was wobbley. It was amazing.

      It is a personal choice. I understand if people don’t want to and I am very grateful for those that do it. They help us all.



  2. Becky said

    Oh my gosh Terre. This is great! My grandfather donated his body to Washington University when he passed (at 102!)
    I am going to donate my body as well, the thought of a casket scares me (yes, I realize I’ll be dead but scary is scary!)
    Thanks for sharing this.


    • BECKY! Thank you! I am so glad you think it is great. I thought it was so interesting. I scribbled three pages of notes. I was so excited to have something to post AND to learn something new. But as with a lot of my post when I get it in the computer I think, “What was I thinking?”

      I didn’t mention it—because I couldn’t remember what school it was–but there is a school that throws a party in honor of the people that have donated their bodies and thanking the families of those that have donated. They had pictures and journals and things from the people that have given so generously. A story within the program was about a woman whose husband donated his body and she was in the department that directly benefited. She was diagonosed with cancer and is going to donate her body. Since that show was originally aired in 2008, I wonder if that has happened already. Hmm?

      It is interesting the thought of a casket scares you but not the thought of what happens when you donate your body.

      Everyone is so different, I am happy that we have a choice. Thank you, Becky’s Grandfather! And. thank you, Becky!


  3. suzicate said

    My youngest had ACL/MCL surgery six months ago and they used a cadaver tendon. Donation is good. I think you are an exceptional person!


    • See? AWESOME. I honestly can’t think about it too much, because it IS icky. But, is your youngest’s life improved because of the replacement?

      It is that person that is exceptional, they helped your baby!


  4. Colleen said

    Interesting topic, Terre. Not many people want to talk about stuff like this, but it is very important. It is something that I don’t like to think about. It is all scary to me.

    If you don’t want to donate your whole body, there is always organ donation that you indicate through your driver’s license. I guess that would be donation only in the event of an accident, though. Still your organs/tissue are put to good use, and your family still gets to memorialize your body as they wish.

    I like how you mention that the U.S. company will take the body at no cost to the family. That is important to know because death is already costly (in many ways)- but the comment is too funny (in a sick way). LOL. Kinda like hauling your junk away for free. I’ll stop now. I’m sure not everyone shares my sick humor.


    • I know it is scary to a lot of people. I — personally think it is scary, so I actually have to focus on only certain aspects.

      For some, organ donation is very tricky and painful because that needs to happen WHILE THE HEART IS STILL BEATING. That is the sad and scary part. A beating heart—to me—indicates life, so . . . . see I can’t type about it . . . my arms all the way to my fingers get tingly thinking about that . . . . . but cadaver donation is just that. And I say “just” to make a point, but . . . . I KNOW it is not an easy desicion or easy to talk about.

      Last night I was with some very YOUNG people, so they haven’t had the additional 20 years of life that I have had, so as they commented on it to me you could see that look in their eyes that they had not given it much thought. I love that about youth. You shouldn’t have to think about stuff like that, but as you get older and start maybe actually NEEDING some parts it might cross your mind. This show just totally fascinated me.

      I am sure many people share your “sick humor”, but maybe not many “went there” when reading this. I look forward to talking to you about it as I love our conversations about everything we talk about. I always learn a lot when during our conversations.

      I took THREE pages of notes so I can share lots of stuff with you if you wanna hear! Thank you so much, Colleen, for stopping by!!!!!


  5. tobeme said

    It is amazing. I once watched a show where doctors were learning plastic surgery and all that was on the table was a head. Giving ones body so others can benefit is a wonderful and loving gift.


    • Yes, this show was a BBC production where they talked about a new facility in Britian (new in 2008 when the show first aired) and they were showing hands. They were showing how with the new ways of doing surgery there is a greater need to practice. They don’t open people up much any longer, so people need to have a feel for how it is to use the tools. Odd. Amazing. Kinda icky.

      “Giving ones body so others can benefit is a wonderful and loving gift.” So well said. Thank you.


  6. Michele said

    I have always indicated that I would be an organ donor on my drivers license, I think donation is a great gift as well, but also have always had reservations about the “beating heart part” so maybe donating the whole body for science is a better way to go…thank you as always for your thought provoking posts!!


    • I think the organ donation is very hard on the family. I can’t really imagine.

      The whole body gift is probably difficult too, but . . . is just seems a little different.

      Thank YOU for reading and commenting!


  7. Gropius said

    FABULOUS post. Once we’re dead, there isn’t any spirit left in that body to necessitate holding on to it. It’s so nice to know you can continue to give once you’ve left this lifetime. The stats you quoted here are phenomenal to see in writing. So many people can be helped! And it’s a hell of a lot better than using animals. Even for people who aren’t into the ethics of animal testing, using their body parts while alive and dead just isn’t good science.


    • Well, I think that there are a lot of people that believe differently so I think that it is up to the individual. I don’t believe there is anything left, but the day I posted this it was explained to me that Budhisim believes the body is needed in whole. I am sure there are a lot of other religions that would not agree to this. And some people without any religion attached might not liked something like this. I think it is a very personal individualized decision. But I just LOVE the idea of helping even after I am dead. That is so cool to me. If my hand could be the hand a surgeon practices on and then goes and repairs the hand of someone that goes on to have a full comfortable life. AWESOME!!!!

      The stats I quoted were from two years ago too, so think of what they are like now. Probably many, many more surgeries are done with key hole incisions so more practice is needed and with inflation . . . .whew. Incredible.


      • Gropius said

        You’re absolutely right–it’s a very personal decision. I’ve always been a reincarnation girl myself, but unlike Buddhists, I don’t believe the body needs to stay whole. I love to learn what other religions teach. I always learn something. And sometimes my perspective changes. Whatever our religion, we share a common belief in service to others, doing good deeds. I love the idea of still being able to give back after I’m gone, whether it’s through philanthropy, goodness instilled in the living around me, or my old body! 🙂


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