From sending bodies out to sea to the run of the mill burial, what someone chooses to do with their body is hinged on personal (and perhaps religious) beliefs. And these preferences are constantly shifting with the decades.
For example, did you know that cremation was nearly unheard of only a few decades ago? In 1960, only 3.5 percent of Americans planned to be cremated after passing, whereas it’s forecasted that 54 percent of people will choose cremation in 2020! As with cremation, we are seeing another trend in after-life wishes, this time taking a little more of a turn toward altruism.
We at MedCure, the fastest growing non-transplant tissue bank accredited by the American Association of Tissue Banks, recently conducted a global survey of over 1,600 random participants on the topic of mortality and after life wishes. We included questions like, “How often do you think about your mortality?” and, “Have you told your family and/or close friends what you want to have happen to your body after you die?” And the results were fascinating.
Nearly 77 percent of respondents occasionally or frequently think about their mortality. Women are 10 percent more likely than men to believe in the afterlife, and also 10 percent more likely to speak to others about their wishes for their body after they have passed. Unsurprisingly, only 14.4 percent of respondents were against donating their bodies to science.
This openness to donating one’s body to science has a lot to do with the cultural shifts of younger generations, in particular millennials, who are expected to outnumber boomers in 2019 according to PEW research. Yet for a generation that’s obsessed with avocados, millennials may be the generation to save us all. According to research by the Charity Commission, millennials are more open to giving back and our survey results reflect the same altruistic tendencies; millennials are twice as likely to want to donate their body to science vs. Gen X.
Body donation is more than a nice gesture—it is critical for disease research, physician education and ongoing medical training. Through accredited whole body donation centers like MedCure, a body donation helps medical and scientific professionals to get hands-on experience in less high-risk environments than a live patient/surgery. One better-trained surgeon can save hundreds of lives over the course of the doctor’s career, and millennials are spearheading the movement to make whole body donations not only less taboo, but hip.
Below are just some of the ways a whole body donation advances science, learning and society as a whole:
- Organ transplant training – Surgeons must be able to practice before performing these live-saving procedures on patients
- Disease research – Many people with terminal illnesses such as Parkinson’s or cancer choose to donate their body for further study in hopes of finding a cure
- First responder education – Through the study of cadavers, researchers found that chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth respiration could keep a person alive
- Orthopedics – New surgical approaches and device improvements are made possible as a result of work on cadavers
- Dental advances – Less invasive and more effective dental practices are being discovered and optimized thanks to research and training enabled by whole body donors
Everything doctors know about human physiology was learned by studying human bodies, and medical communities depend on the selflessness of donors to improve the health and lives of others. Plus, donating your body through organizations like MedCure is free and covers the cost of cremation, which averages $2,000 or more. Leaving a lasting legacy and saving money in the process? That’s an end of life option we can all get behind.