Friday, April 28, 2006

Mrs. Linklater Has a New Cockamammy Theory

I've decided not to die just yet.

However, I have made plans to donate my body to medical science. To get you to volunteer, medical schools offer to have your body cremated for free after they use it for anatomy class. Your ashes are sent back to your family. Did I mention FOR FREE?

Coming from a family where my doctor father had a joke name for his medical school cadaver, you might think I would have second thoughts. He called his cadaver Ernest, because he was working in dead Ernest.

However, after my father died and his burial costs were enough for the downpayment on a summer home or a really nice double wide in a trailer park, I decided there had to be a way around spending that kind of money. Needless to say my family wasn't thrilled with the idea of donating my body. The idea of saving a boatload of dough didn't have the appeal I thought it would, but, so far, they are willing to honor my request. I don't think they had their fingers crossed.

To help them feel better about my decision, I heard that Northwestern University medical school put some rules in place to prevent the rampant disrespectful behavior of the past.

These days, I guess, instead of allowing disparaging nicknames for cadavers, they tell the students the real first name of the person whose body they will be dissecting -- to remind them that this was a real person. Accepting a cadaver as a real person can be hard because cadavers are shot full of so many preservatives that they don't look real. Why do I know this? One of the perks of dating a med student in college is that they always want to show you things like that. Lucky me.

After the anatomy class has ended, I understand that NU holds a non religious ceremony to honor the bodies for their service. So I thought that would help my squeamish relatives accept my wish to be donated.

Personally, I figure once I'm dead, I am gone -- my body is just a shell, but I am glad there has been an effort to prevent medical students from thinking it's okay to steal cadaver ears and put them on someone's Jello -- like I saw at lunch one day at college.

When my ashes are returned I want them scattered around my favorite places -- the drive up at Wendy's, my computer screen, Russell Crowe's pocket, the bakery aisle at Costco, you know. Or scatter them to the wind. Just don't put me in the ground, please. They'll want money for that too. Frankly, the thought of being in the ground makes me feel claustrophobic, even though I'll be dead.

Unfortunately, lately I've been reading about unscrupulous people at funeral homes [for instance, FUNERAL DIRECTORS] who work in collusion with greedy people at medical schools, hospitals, and related businesses to sell them body parts for hundreds of thousands of dollars. It's much more ghoulish than that apparently, since some also harvest organs [skin and corneas, etc.] to be transplanted, without regard for what the person died of. 

To recoup their losses for not being able to sell you that overpriced, natural veneer, mahagony finish coffin with the genuine satin interior and the real brass handles, along with a huge cement vault to protect it from the worms that will feast on your remains, the funeral folks just PRETEND your body has been cremated [or sent to a medical school] and make a killing, pardon an expression, by selling your parts. 

The practice gives new meaning to ARMS DEALER.

Here's a heartwarming dissection, oops, sorry, of this whole body parts business that I found at a newsblog.

Let's get Mrs. L's cockamammy theory rolling. People who want to be cremated can really affect a funeral home's bottom line. I saw one place that wanted $3500 for an urn, which is a joke, but that was nothing compared to $10,000 for their cheapest coffin. I should mention that they give you a viewing room, play nice music and drive the body to its hole in the ground as part of the deal.  Nevermind what it costs for the hole in the ground, even when you're in an urn, although there's always the mantle.

I am their worst nightmare. No viewing except at the hospital or the house or wherever my body has come to rest, within reason. Only my kids and immediate family. Just get me to the place that prepares bodies for the medical school -- they may even come pick me up. For free.

Meanwhile, I think some funeral home association has hired a pr firm to spread the awful stories about bodies being stolen on their way to cremation, or medical school, so that people will beg to have a coffin and be buried in the ground. Of course, if you can't close and lock the coffin yourself, they can get you on the way to the cemetery too, but let's not go there.

Funeral directors -- the honest ones -- have to be thrilled that there are people dealing in illegal body parts. Especially since there's no easy, inexpensive way to identify the ashes that your family gets back. Nothing like creeping people out to build up your business. What do you bet they'll be adding a window to the top of the coffin so you can see that the body is there before it goes into the ground?

But that won't stop me on my mission to die for free. Or perhaps even make some money on the deal.

Finding out I'm worth a small fortune as a dead body sold for its parts gives me an idea, actually. Why not cut out the middle man altogether and have my family sell me directly to the arms dealer, as it were, so they -- my family -- can pocket the money themselves. My value is up to $300,000 in some places. Plus I'm tall, so there's more of me to donate.

A nice little legacy don't you think?


ksquester said...

Most interesting post. The funeral home industry has been changed over the years. The privately owned ones are now owned by a big conglomerate. They now have to accept a casket from an outer source and can't charge "handling" charges anymore.  Now the cemetaries can set their own rules and that is very interesting too. As for the medical schools and the gross anatomy classes. They all used the proper names when disecting bodies and treated them with great respect, but that was just my husbands experience. ALSO medical schools can SELL their donated bodies to ANY institution requesting them. YOU could end up as a crash "dummy" in a car to see what injuries occur in a side or front impact collision. Question is: Are you a cadillac or a mercedes girl? haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa   Sorry for the long response.    ANNE

dr1hguy said...

1. While it’s not quite a horror story about cadavers, it was at least a tad macabre when my medical school classmates and I ran across the school’s cadaver tech (the guy who fished the cadavers out of the tank of preservatives, opened the chest and skull with a power saw, disposed of remnants produced during dissections, and such) while he was working on his second job as a chef at one of the nicer restaurants in town.

2. Fun Facts About Cremation:

A. Family or other designated individuals can observe the cremation of the deceased.

B. For practical purposes, cremated remains can be distributed anywhere as long as the owner of the property, whether private or public, agrees.

C. Commercial firms stand ready to transform ones cremains (the term has been in use for at least 40 years) into gemstones, rocket them into space, or deposit them in an “Eternal Reef,” stumps, statues (dolphins are popular), fake rocks, modified sports equipment, jewelry, books, or musical instruments.

jevanslink said...

I offered to be turned into a gemstone or put into a locket and the only response was EEEEWWWWWWW, Mom!!   Mrs. L

dafyddhevans said...

I had several friends in HPME when I was at NU, and, on several occaisons, I went to NUMS to see the cadavers they were dissecting.  The lab in which they do it is nice.  New (at least in 1991).  Air conditioned.  They keep the cadavers in big plastic bags so they don't dry out (I think they used phenol then if memory serves), and put a paper towel, albeit a large paper towel, over the face out of respect.  Several med student share a single cadaver.  Not like the old days where it was a one-on-one activity.  None of my friends ever did anything unseemly to them as far as I know.  Although Milan did let me hold his cadaver's liver.  I think you'd enjoy it.

The best part of the post, though, was being able to visualize a loved one being dissected in the very lab in which it is likely to happen.  Never having to think about that again is worth at least the cost of cremation to me, btw.

dafyddhevans said...

I think this scenario was an episode of Bones, btw.

jevanslink said...

Haaaa -- maybe I should watch more Fox besides House.  Mrs. L

myheartsaysso2 said...

Well ok.. that will make anyone think! :)


psychfun said...

Wow! That was something! I never thought of it that way. I too would have a anxiety attack but cremation also bothers me...I think I just won't die! HA! I do think I'd rather be in my favorite places too. I loe yours! HA!  Just as long as some family member doesn't put me in a cat's litter box! ICK! I think the guys will be googling when they see you! ;-) Make them drool living & dead! HA! How about sprinkling throughout a mall! :-)

elleme2 said...

I have never understood the thinking behind funeral spending.  Funeral directors do a superb job of convincing people that the size, construction and comfort of the coffin really matters.  When my aunt died, her husband spent $10,000 on the viewing (for about 20 people) and the disposition of her body. They were a couple of very limited means and $10,000 was many times more than he had ever spent on any gift (or necessity) for her when she was alive!  
I'm with you.  When I'm dead, I won't know or care what they do with the remains, which are only a hollow shell. Better the money should go to my own children and grandchildren rather than the funderal director's kids.    

swibirun said...

We have a very nice cemetary near here.....everyone is just dying to get in there.  (Rimshot)

You are right about the cost of a burial.....It costs an arm and a leg! (Rimshot)

A classical musician decides to go visit Beethoven's grave to get inspired. As he walks around the graveyard, he hears a scratching noise. He looks for the source of the noise and find it's coming from the inside of Beethoven's grave. He digs out the coffin, opens it, and finds Beethoven lying with a score in his hands, erasing it.

"What are you doing?" the musician asked.

"What does it look like I'm doing?" Beethoven replied. "I'm decomposing!"
(crickets chirping)

Ok, I'm done.


auntiemayme said...

LOL - Good entry.  Loved it.  I'm with you.  What the heck does it matter once you are dead.  At least by donating your body, you are helping further science.  Actually, I work at a medical school.  Of course students are always going to make jokes, etc.  But, then again, ya gotta get through Gross Anatomy the best you can.  Overall, the school is very respectful of their cadavers and there is a ceremony in May each year to thank all that have donated.  Quite a few university employees attend, even ones not directly related to the Anatomy Department.  I think most all of us have a lot of gratitude for those that do donate.  Afterall, what better way are future doctors going to get experience.  I know I for one, would rather my doctor had a cadaver to practice on than just viewing slide shows before actually operating on me.  Well, I think this entry will get a lot of people thinking.  I hope so.   -Margo