I Don't Need It, You Can Have It: Motivations for Whole Body Donation
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Death is a biological surety experienced by all people. The decision of how to lay people to rest, however, is entirely based on culture. In the United States, the most common funerary practices are burial and cremation. Much less common is the practice of body donation to research facilities including medical schools and anthropological research centers. Through semi–structured interviews with living donors (who intend to donate their bodies upon death) and next–of–kin donors (who have already chosen to donate the bodies of loved ones), this research sought to understand what motivates individuals to choose body donation. Analysis of interview texts indicated three primary motivations exist: an interest in the scientific process, a desire to be helpful, and a desire for an alternative to a traditional funeral. In addition, the analysis revealed that living donors were also motivated by the cost effectiveness of body donation, and next–of–kin donors by the desire to honor their loved ones’ wishes. All of these motivations reflect current, cultural trends in end of life decision–making and also suggest a dichotomy between donors: those who can choose their method of disposition and those who must select the cheapest option.