Organ and Tissue Donation verses Anatomical Donation

By: William Spence
Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Anatomical Donation and Gift of Life are each programs to consider when individuals and families are considering end-of-life decisions. Both programs are designed that others benefit from another’s loss. However, there are differences in the programs that you should know.

Unlike organ and tissue donations, anatomical donation is considered an accepted form of final disposition. Upon death, the entire body is transferred from the place of death to a teaching institution or procurement organization for the purpose of teaching students of medical related professions or for medical research. When making an anatomical donation, the body is never available for a viewing or ceremony. Depending upon the chosen gift program, the body will ultimately be cremated and available to the family for private burial or other suitable disposition.

There are limitations associated with making an anatomical gift. Such limitations could be death as a result of contagious or communicable diseases, certain tumors or masses, morbid obesity, and death as a result traumatic injury. Time from death until a deceased individual is accepted into the program is also a consideration. Depending upon the program or organization chosen, costs of a funeral home may or may not apply.

Although making arrangements in advance with an anatomical donation program is advisable, it is not required. Families may make that decision at the time a death occurs. 

Organ and tissue donation organizations, such as Gift of Life, are life-giving organizations that directly benefit others. Individuals or families can decide to donate organs, bone, tissue, and corneas to be implanted into medically compatible recipients, giving them a second chance at life. Donors have the freedom to decide which organs or tissues they wish to donate.

Typically, with organ and tissue donation, an individual must be a patient in a hospital where the body can be kept alive by artificial means until logistics and provisions can be made to match the donor with the appropriate recipient(s). However, if a donor passes in places other than a hospital, internal organs are no longer viable, but tissue, bone, and corneas may still be accepted. When choosing to be a donor to programs such as Gift of Life, there is no cost to the family for medical expenses related to harvesting the organs. Age and certain medical conditions are considerations given in the determination process of acceptable and usable gifts.

Gift of Life donations do not change final arrangement preferences of the deceased. Licensed funeral directors are trained in caring for the remains of those who have unselfishly given little or much of their body so that others may have life. Like anatomical donation, organ donation may be arranged prior to death but not required.

Spence Funeral Services has licensed funeral directors to discuss these and other options without pressure or obligation. 

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