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What's it like: To donate your body to science

In Oklahoma, a body donation program must operate through a nonprofit entity. It's against the law to buy or sell body parts for profit.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: February 22, 2014
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Why do people donate their bodies to science?

People might donate their bodies to science to help a cause they believe in, even after death. For example, they might donate their bodies to a specific program because they believe in that organization’s research mission.

Sometimes people might choose body donation because they think it’s the only way they can afford cremation. However, it’s not advised to donate your body or a loved one’s body to science if this is your only option for a burial. It’s best to donate when you believe in the mission of the organization you’re helping.

How does the process work in Oklahoma?

In Oklahoma, a body donation program must operate through a nonprofit entity. It's against the law to buy or sell body parts for profit.

The University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University both run body donation programs. There are also private nonprofit groups in Oklahoma that have programs. If you die in Oklahoma, it’s not against the law to donate your body to an out-of-state program. However, it’s important to research the program that you’re considering and understand what type of research the organization might perform.

Each program will have criteria for whether it will accept a person’s body after death. For example, obesity can sometimes be an issue. Some programs will not accept someone’s body, even if they’ve enrolled to donate their body, if they’re over a certain weight. Also, your body might not be accepted if you had a highly contagious disease or recent wounds from an unhealed surgery.

Under Oklahoma’s “anatomical gift” law, your family can donate your body to science after you’ve died — if you’ve indicated that’s what you wanted. For example, if you have a legal document that includes mention that you wanted to donate, some programs would accept you, even if you hadn’t finished the paperwork with that specific program. Other programs, however, are more strict and would only accept your donation if they had your information previously on file.

What type of research is a donated body used for?

That will vary, depending on where you donate your body. For example, if you donate your body to a university program, your body might be used for educational reasons, either at the university where you donate your body or at an educational institution that partners with that university.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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More information

To contact the University of Oklahoma’s Willed Body Program, call 271-2424. To contact Oklahoma State University’s Body Donor Program, call (918) 561-8446. Both programs also have websites, which can be found by searching their names online.

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