Many clients include their wishes regarding cremation and/or burial in their Wills. Some people provide a wish regarding organ or tissue donation, which is also often evidenced by an organ donor card. Still others decide to donate their bodies to science: what do they need to do to ensure that their wishes are carried out? Is a clause in their Will sufficient?
Executors have the right to possess the deceased’s body, and have the duty to dispose of it in a dignified manner – typically by burial or cremation. Ultimately, the choice of what to do with the body is the decision of the executor. The executor’s rights and duties come before anyone else’s, including the deceased’s surviving spouse. It is therefore crucial to let your executor (and family members) know if you have strong wishes with respect to burial or donation.
Leaving your body to science requires planning. Your doctor and family members (and especially your executor) need to be informed of your decision. By the time your Will is read, it could be too late. Knowing your wishes in advance could also help those who do not understand get used to the idea.
People who wish to support teaching and research activities at a medical school by considering whole body donation, should call the anatomy school of their choice, or even the Office of the Chief Coroner. Medical schools will have their own policies and programs. Despite the executor’s right to determine how to dispose of the body, some programs will not accept bodies if a family member objects to the bequest of their body. It would be wise for individuals who are considering body donation to have alternative funeral plans in place should the program decline the donation.
Lesson Learned: You must plan and speak with family where your body is concerned 🙂
Until next time,