General Funeral Questions

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If you are an organ donor, how do you make sure your wishes are carried out by the funeral home?

If you want to be an organ donor after your death, you should:

  • Sign up as an organ and tissue donor in your state’s donor registry (you can locate your state’s donor registry at, or fill out an organ donor card when you get or renew your driver’s license
  • Include organ donation in your advance directives, will, and living will
  • Tell your family you have elected to be an organ donor after you die
  • Tell your physician, friends, and pastor or other faith leader

Having this information on record will enable the funeral home to make the appropriate arrangements.

Does body donation interfere with funeral arrangements?

While it is not possible to have an open casket viewing with a whole body donation, the donor family may opt to have a memorial service with the cremated remains.

What happens to the body when the medical school has finished its research?

Once the school is finished with its teaching and research, the remains are cremated. The cremated remains may be dispersed or buried by the school, or they may be returned to family if so desired.

Can you donate your body to science, if you are also an organ donor?

No. Most medical schools want to receive an entire body with intact organs. The one exception they allow is eye donors. Most schools will accept a body whose eyes have been donated as long as the rest of the organs are intact.

Can you still hold a funeral or memorial service if you donate your body to science?

Yes. You can still have a service in the days following your death, even though the body will not be present. Alternately, if your family chooses to wait until your cremated remains are returned by the medical school, they can have your remains present in an urn during the service.

Is there a cost for donating your body for medical research?

Generally, no. If your body is accepted for medical research, the donor program or medical school will donor program or medical school usually covers the cost of the cremation and burial tasks once they are finished.

Can I ask to have my body donated to science rather than have it buried or cremated?

Yes. If you wish to donate your body to medical research, you must clearly state it in writing prior to death. The most common way to donate your body to medical research involves contacting a donor program, which is usually affiliated with a local medical school. You will need to complete any required forms so the documents will be filed in readiness for when death occurs. Your family will need to contact the donor program immediately following your death. The medical school will make arrangements to pick up the body and transport it back to their facility.

Can a body be viewed without embalming?

Yes. A private or home viewing by family members and close friends is permissible without embalming.

What is the purpose of embalming?

Embalming is meant to temporarily halt the process of decomposition in a dead body. Embalming does not preserve the body indefinitely, even within a sealed casket. The rate of decomposition may vary in an embalmed body, depending on the embalming method used, the strength of the chemicals, and the humidity and temperature of the final resting place.

Why have a public viewing?

During the initial days following the death of a loved one, it is common for the bereaved to feel numb or in denial that the death has really happened. Having a viewing is important because it helps the mourners to move toward a degree of closure and acceptance regarding the finality of their loved one’s death.

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