Give Your Body to Science? Not So Fast

Oakey’s manager Jon Wilson pushes a body into the cremation furnace (which is over 1,600 degrees).

I spent a little time at Oakey’s Funeral Home in Salem this morning and in the course of a conversation with manager Jon Wilson, I asked a question about what happens to bodies.

John says the split between burial and cremation is about 50-50 and those who give their body “to science” comes in at about four percent. But giving the body away is not easy. The state, for example, wants pretty much pristine bodies (that could still be alive), no scabs, cuts or obvious medical problems.

Some bodies go for experimentation outside medicine. Virginia Tech, for example, used bodies in its football helmet safety studies recently, Jon said. The military likes to test ammo on dead bodies. And, of course, there are medical studies for specific diseases.

Here are some ideas, including¬† the ever-present “body brokers” who find a place for the dead that is not in a hole and might even be able to help save some people in the future.

But to just say, “Hey, boys, take my body for science,” won’t work. You’ll need to do a little studying ahead of time to see what your options are. If you don’t mind getting shot at, going through a windshield of a car or using your dead noggin for football tests, then go to it.



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Dan Smith is an award-winning journalist in Roanoke, Va., and a member of the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame. He is an author, photographer, essayist, father and grandfather. Co-founder of Valley Business FRONT magazine and founder of the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference. On Advisory Board of New River Voice.

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