Why Families Need to Discuss After-Life Wishes This Holiday Season

Now is the season of giving, and the thoughts of many are turning to the ways in which each of us can give back to our communities. Whether you’re a fan of purchasing sustainable products, or of giving gifts that benefit a cause, there are many options for contributing to the season and to society as a whole. And some states are getting creative. One particular act of altruism is on the rise, even if it might not be the first thought that pops into most people’s heads: donating one’s body to science.

We at MedCure have seen a 30 percent year-over-year growth in the number of donors to our American Association of Tissue Banks accredited program. That makes us the nation’s fastest-growing non-transplant tissue bank specializing in whole body donations, and we are honored and humbled by the generosity of our donors. Some of the most giving states by numbers include Texas, California and Ohio, while Louisiana, Wyoming and West Virginia have seen the highest growth (149 percent, 133 percent and 116 percent, respectively) over the last year.

With only 18,000 people nationwide donating their bodies to science each year, this growth is a testament to U.S. residents’ desire to leave a lasting legacy by supporting the advancement of medical science for future generations. Organ donation saves a life today; however, whole body donation saves lives, tomorrow and beyond.

Medical professionals rely almost exclusively on whole-body donations to provide the cadavers that are essential for honing surgical skills, developing new medical devices and procedures, and researching new treatments and cures for the diseases and conditions that affect millions of people around the world. But demand consistently outpaces supply. Even if the number of whole body donors doubled today, programs like ours would still not be able to meet the demands of the medical community. It’s our goal at MedCure to remove the stigma from whole body donation in order to advance medical science and provide a no-cost end of life solution to donors’ families. (Did you know the average funeral in America costs $7181?)

As you come together with family members for the holidays, ask your loved ones what legacy they want to leave behind. Discussing these matters with loved ones can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be scary. A few tips on how to bring up and discuss your end-of-life planning choices with family include:

  • Find out who you want to discuss this with, when would be a good time to talk, and where you would feel most comfortable discussing the topic
  • Start your talk with, “I need to think about the future. Will you help me?”
  • Be patient with your loved ones; this can be a difficult topic for them to consider.

In addition to discussions around end of life choices—like who can make medical decisions if you’re unable to—it is also important to make your after-life wishes known to your loved ones. Some things it’s important to make certain your family understands include:

  • Whether you would like to donate your organs
  • Whether you prefer to be buried, cremated, or to donate your body to science (body donors can be cremated at the end of their research participation and the ashes returned to their loved ones or scattered at sea)
  • What type of funeral or memorial service you envision
  • Any phone, email, computer, or social media passwords you would like them to be able to access, should you precede them in death
  • If you would like money donated to a cause in lieu of flowers
  • If you would like extraordinary medical measures taken to keep you alive, and who should make your medical decisions.

Ultimately, remember that nothing is set in stone and you can reconsider these choices at any point. No matter what you decide, the important thing is to plan ahead. Do the research on your options, and don’t overlook your end of life planning this season! It’s a step that can help take the burden off of you and your loved ones, and it can benefit humanity for years and generations to come. It’s quite possibly the greatest gift any one of us can give and a final act of enduring generosity.

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