Tuesday, December 28, 2010

You can be a busy body, in life and death

By TOMIE PARKS
Staff writer

From playing basketball to getting married, there are a lot of things to do in life.
But what about after you die?
Granted, not much happens to your body after that last breath, but there are some choices you can make now that will put your body to good use.
Liza Anne DeNeice, of Orchard, is one person who’s opted to forgo the traditional burial.
“I want my bones to be a skeleton at a Texas A&M lab,” DeNeice said. “After my back and knee surgeries, there are bound to be some neat things to look at.”
The 52-year-old woman was smiling as she talked, but she wasn’t joking.
“There’s just no sense in rotting,” she said.
She’s already shared her plans with her family and is in the process of completing the necessary paperwork.
Her family has accepted her decision.
“I thought it was a little weird at first,” said DeNeice’s daughter, Jamie Belknap, of Houston. “But the idea makes her happy. And she’s always been into re-using and recycling, so in a way, it’s fitting to who she is. I’ll be happy to see that her wish is carried through.”
This topic is not meant to take away from the joy of Christmas. It’s just something to think about so wills are updated for the New Year.
So here are some ways you can put your body to use after you die.
1. Donate your organs
More than 84,000 men, women and children are on the National Organ Transplant Waiting List. On a daily basis, about 70 of them receive their organs while 18 of them die waiting.
“Organ donation is on the rise, but so is the waiting list,” said a report on the Web site owned by the United Network for Organ Sharing. “It’s our hope that the upward trend in organ donation will continue.”
In Texas, the process of becoming an organ donor is relatively simple. Just alert the Department of Public Safety the next time you renew your driver’s license. You’ll just have to check the box for organ donation and sign on the dotted line.
To donate organs like a heart, kidney, liver or pancreas, Texan residents can also sign up online at https://www.donatelifetexas.org.
2. Donate your tissue
Organs aren’t the only commodities your body has to offer. Your bones, ligaments, heart valves and corneas would also be welcome to anyone injured but otherwise alive and healthy.
In Texas, the process to register for tissue donation is the same as registering for organ donation, so refer to item one for details.
3. Will your body to a university
Help a future doctor learn about the human body by becoming a cadaver dissected by first-year medical students. The Web site www.lifelegacy.org can help you get in contact with the medical school of your choice.
4. Leave it to “the body farm”
Did you ever wonder how TV show detectives know the time of death just by examining the body? Cops can thank the folks at the University of Tennessee’s Forensic Anthropology Center for helping them figure it out.
“The body farm,” as the center is known, has more than 650 skeletons scattered across 2.5 acres in Knoxville, Tenn. Researchers and students study bodies in varying stages of decay to help anthropologists and law enforcement officials answer important questions, such as body identification and time of death analysis.
To become one of those skeletons after you die, request a copy of their body donation packet from the center’s Web site, http://web.utk.edu/~fac/donation.html. You’ll have to fill out their body donation document and complete the biological questionnaire.
They’ll also want a photo of you to help them learn more about facial reconstruction and photographic superimposition as a means for identifying unknown individuals.
Out-of-state donors are usually responsible for their body’s transportation costs.
5. Become a crash test cadaver
Plastic crash test dummies are all well and good, but there’s nothing like a real human body to simulate what happens in a car crash.
You can become a crash test cadaver by willing your body to the Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, Ill. That school’s Web site is www.med.wayne.edu.
6. Send your body on tour
If you’ve been to the “Body Worlds” exhibit, you know what plastination is: The process of posing and hardening a body so it appears life-like.
You, too, could become one of these bodies on display by donating to the Institute for Plastination, which can be reached through www.bodyworlds.com.
As an American citizen, your body will be embalmed and shipped to Germany, where technicians will perform the plastination process.
There scientists will remove the body’s fat and water and then impregnate the corpse with rubber silicone to position it into a frozen pose, like “man running” or “woman reading.” This preparation process takes about a year, according to the group’s Web site.
The donor is responsible for transporting the body to the embalming location, but the Institute for Plastination will pay for the shipping costs to Germany.
Whatever you choose to do with your body, even if it’s the traditional burial or cremation, don’t keep your plans a secret.
Tell your family members what you’ve decided, so they won’t be surprised when the time comes. Some may even be honored that you included them in the planning process.

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