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While most Texans have checked “organ donor” on their driver’s license, few realize that the Donate Life Texas program only handles organ, eye and tissue donations.  You can give more, saving lives, helping researchers find cures for disease and educating medical students, doctors and others.

Why you should donate your body

Some organizations will accept a whole body donor who has also made a live organ donation or donated corneas, whole eyes, skin and bones for transplant into a living person.  The body may be used in anatomy classes, by organizations developing medical devices or less invasive surgical procedures.  Parts of the body may be used to train people in orthopedics, cardiology, or trauma.  The brain may be used by researchers trying to find cures for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s epilepsy and mental illness.

You may die with a condition which researchers are desperate to understand better, such as cancer or dementia.  Age is no barrier.  Nor is having a pacemaker or prosthetic.

Many donation programs offer services at no cost to your family:  initial, minimal embalming and transportation, cremation and return of cremated remains.

Your family must know what you want and agree to carry out your wishes.  Our bodies deteriorate rapidly when not in use.  Corneas should be donated within two to three hours; brains within six.

Just as you have back-up agents under your Medical and Durable [Financial] Powers of Attorney, your Appointment for Disposition of Remains should authorize donation to other programs in case your first choice cannot accept the donation.  You should also have plans in place in case no program can accept the donation.  This might happen, for example, if you develop septicemia.

If you want to help cure Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, epilepsy or mental illness, help people with Down’s Syndrome, autism or traumatic brain injury, you may want to donate your brain through the National Institutes of Health NeuroBioBank and your body to Texas State Forensic Anthropology.  There is a desperate need for brains:  only about 100 are donated each year.

Organizations that accept whole body donations near Austin, TX

Below is a list of Willed Body Programs at universities within 100 miles of Austin followed by a list of nationwide programs.  Depending on the program, your cremated remains could be returned to your family in three weeks to four years (or, if you donate your body for forensic anthropology, never.)

Dell Medical School
UT Southwestern Willed Body Program
214-648-2221 or 888-905-9991

Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics
School of Medicine
979-436-0316

UT Health Science Center, San Antonio School of Medicine, Department of Cellular and Structural Biology
Body Donation Program
210-567-3900

Texas State University Forensic Anthropology Center
512-245-1900

Anatomy Gifts Registry
800-300-5433

BioGift Anatomical & Surgical Education Center

866-670-1799

LifeLegacy Foundation
888-774-4438

MedCure 
866-560-2525

Science Care 
800-417-3747

United Tissue Network
877-738-6111

Questions to ask the organization receiving the body donation

In Texas body donations are governed by Chapters 691 and 692 of the Health and Safety Code.  More information for donors is available from the Texas Anatomical Board.

Before donating, you may want to follow the advice of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Central Texas and ask these questions.

  1. What professional accreditations, if any, does this organization have?
  2. Is this a nonprofit organization?
  3. May I be an organ, tissue or eye donor for living recipients before my body is donated for research or education?
  4. What costs will my family be required to pay?
  5. What diseases or conditions at time of death would make my body unacceptable for donation?
  6. Will you accept a body that has been autopsied?
  7. Which tissues, organs and body parts will be allocated?
  8. For what purpose will the donated tissue, organs and body parts be used?
  9. If remains are to be used for research, can I or my family specify that the research be limited to a particular disease or condition?
  10. What limitations can be placed on the use of tissues, organs and body parts?
  11. What entities will receive which allocated tissues, organs and body parts.  (If a recipient is a research program or the purpose is educational, the family should be told the name of the organization, the program, the  specific body parts provided, and the location of the organizational recipient.
  12. What parts of the body will be included in cremated remains returned to my family?
  13. Who can my family contact for additional information, and how can they be contacted?

 

 

Elder law attorney, Terry Garrett, CELA, is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is an Approved Guardianship Attorney. She assists people in elder law, estate and special needs planning, guardianship and settling estates. She graduated with honors from Cornell University. She was on the Dean’s List at Wharton Business School. She earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School, receiving the Parker Award and a Mellon Fellowship.

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