Quora Query: How do I donate my body to medical research? Can I choose the institution? Is there some reason I might choose one over the other? I’m in Iowa, USA, by the way. I’m a young 70, but a dear friend recently did this and it seems like a wonderful idea.

It IS a wonderful and generous thing to do. I can still remember the start of our anatomy year in medical school. We – as I remember there were 4 or 5 of us to each cadaver – were introduced to the body of the woman who had donated herself to us so we could learn the anatomy we would need to become physicians. I can still see myself looking at her, thinking: ‘You once laughed, cried, loved, worked….and now, here you are, with us…’

My father, born and growing up on a small and poor farm in North Dakota, had a special love for the Native Americans who inhabited the land he walked and farmed. He would remind me that when an animal was killed for food, the hunter would thank the spirit of the animal for giving itself for the sustenance of the Tribe.

Each day, entering the anatomy laboratory, I would silently thank this woman for allowing me – us – to learn from her. Some of my classmates did so as well. All of this is just to note that what you are asking to do is very generous.

So how to do this:

Firstly, you can choose the institution. If you want to donate yourself to the University of Iowa School of Medicine, I would suggest calling Doctor John Englehardt, Chairperson of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology (this is the “Deeded Body Program” site). His email is john-engelhardt@uiowa.edu and the office Phone Number is 319-335-7744.

If you were to choose another institution, you may go to their medical school web site, click on Departments, click again on their Department of Anatomy, and call/write/e-mail the Chairperson. Whether at Iowa or elsewhere, the people you talk to will be able to tell you what paperwork – oh yes, even in death! – you will need to complete so that your last wish is honored.

Secondly, I suggest that, in your Advanced Directive and Will, you make it clear that this is what you want to do and name the institution – if you’ve chosen one – that your body should go to.

Finally, I salute you. In our time of unmitigated greed and cruelty, you and your wish to be of service to humanity are as a spring breeze after a long winter.

Thank you.

About AJ Layon

AJ Layon was, for 28 years, at the University of Florida College of Medicine, in the Division of Critical Care Medicine, in Gainesville, FL. For the approximately 10 years until September 2011, he was Professor and Chief of Critical Care Medicine at UF; In September of 2011 he became System Director and Co-Chairman of Critical Care Medicine in PA; this ended in 2017. He served as a Physician in the Surgical Group with Médecins sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors without Borders) through 2018 and is presently an intensivist in Florida, struggling through the SARS-CoV-2 crisis. While his interests are primarily related to health care, health care reform, and ethical issues, as a citizen of our United States and our world, he will occasionally opine on issues of our "time and destiny". Follow on Twitter @ajlayon
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