For some time now I have been trying to introduce some knowledge that I picked up back in 2003 but have been putting it off. A response to a recent post of mine titled "Wanna save a buck?" was left by a fellow blogger who is the author over at AngryBarCode and prompted me to write this. The gist of my post was "Pre-Need" and the response referred to the donation of ones body to science as well as mention of being a crash dummy; I'm assuming jokingly but perhaps not. In my humble opinion, there's not a single thing wrong with complete body donation provided you know and accept the possibilities.
Back in 2003, a relative gave me the book "Stiff" as a birthday gift. This book is classified as non-fiction and was written by Mary Roach, published by WW Norman and Co. in the same year and was a New York Times Bestseller. Perhaps I'm naive but I used to think that when one donated their body to Science that grandiose things would happen to the body...I could envision medical students all huddled around my lifeless form pointing out all of the different muscles ( muscles, another dream! ) and what they control or perhaps noted surgeons dissecting my body trying to detect the cause of a specific disease, or maybe even neurologists studying my brain to see what made me, me, all in the hopes that this would somehow further medical science. But never in my wildest dreams did I think that there was a possibility that the Inn would be full and there would be no medical need for me. They don't want to turn away a good specimen though because there are so many other useful things that can be done with these donations, so instead they're just farmed out, sold.
For example, where do you think you could find a living person or group of people who would be willing to allow themselves to be part of an experiment to determine the effects a plane crash has on the human body? Who do you know that would have subjected themselves to a crucifixion so that scientists could determine if the Shroud of Turin had the correct markings on it? We all know the importance of automobile safety but would you want to be the one used to discover that crashing into a wall at 75 miles per hour with no seat belt causes severe skull fractures and probable crushed ribs; while alive? How about standing in a field and being shot at to determine the impact a new type of bullet has on human flesh? Would you like someone to blow you up and see how close you have to be to a specific bomb before you begin losing limbs? How do you think forensics know that a rotted human body has been dead for X amount of hours exposed to X degrees? All of these tests are conducted on cadavers. This is not a book review but I must admit that the reading fascinated me; taught me things I had never even considered. I'm not trying to discourage donating ones body to science, not by a long shot because tons of valuable information has been gathered thanks to these donations; and will continue to be gathered as long as we can provide the material for them to study. Just keep in mind, as I do, that your idea of a donation to science might not end up being exactly what you had in mind. And if you're okay with that, go for it! Let's face it, are any of the alternatives really any better? I don't think so.