Why It's Easier To Donate Your Body To Science After Death

For some people, donating their bodies to science after they pass away is great idea. After all, they can still be of useful after death, and the entire process is one easy walk in the park. So how come donating your medical records, which should be easier than bringing in an actual corpse, harder? And most of the time, almost impossible?

The ratio of body donation to submission of health records is very, very far. On one hand, you get numerous body donation programs scattered everywhere, but on the other, the same people that signed up to get their bodies studied after death will find it very difficult to submit their collected health records to a research team.

Unfortunately, this is the case despite collected health records having the potential to answer a lot of public health questions that require information gathered during a long period of time. For example, these collected medical records can tell how the health of a specific group of individuals are affected by the nature of their work or by their own living conditions.

That’s why earlier this year an ethical code was developed by a group of ethicists and lawyers, stating that posthumous health data shouldn’t be exploited and should be used for common good, as well as being carefully stored, with the research done on it available to the public. Despite this framework, however, the process still doesn’t fully exist.

“We didn’t find any systems where you could actively give your data . There’s no way to pass it on in a proper way,” said Jen Krutzinna, a bioethicist, one of the code’s authors and a member of the Digital Ethics Lab at the Oxford Internet Institute.

While this may be the case, there are still existing laws and regulations that dictate researchers can use someone’s posthumous records. For example, in the U.K., scientists can request permission to access health records that are anonymous from the National Health Service.

In the U.S., however, HIPAA laws state that personal health data remains private for 50 years after death , unless a family member allows it to be used.

Nevertheless, the Oxford ethical code is a step in the right direction, toward a future where donation is easy to access and possible.

corpse Though donating your body to science means your gift will advance medical research or technology in some way, it also means you have no say in where your cadaver goes or which branch of science it supports. Romana Klee (cropped for size)/CC by 2.0