Ask LOIS: Can I donate my body to a local medical school?

Q: Since I was a teenager (I’m almost 68 now), I’ve wanted to donate my body to science because I don’t like taking up space in a cemetery.

I have a contract with Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta to come and retrieve my body as soon as I die. My family and friends knew it was my wish, and even though they thought it was weird, they accepted it.

When I retired and moved here, I knew Emory was no longer an option.

I still want to do it and I want you to know that medical schools or research labs in Fort Lauderdale and nearby cities want my body. I’m glad you’ll do your research. I’m in no hurry—at least, I hope not. Ha ha. “— Ernie Blankenship, Oakland Park

A: Ernie, what you want to do is so important and warms my heart. How else can science advance to save more lives if we don’t make sacrifices (and occasionally make our loved ones a little uncomfortable)?

Florida has a very organized system for accepting cadavers for its medical schools.This Florida Board of Anatomy They are distributed through three academic centers: University of Florida, University of Central Florida, and our nearest university, the University of Miami.

UM distributed the bodies to seven South Florida sites, including its own school, Miller School of Medicine, as well as Florida Atlantic University, Barrie University, Florida International University, Nova Southeastern University, Florida Gulf Coast University and Coral Gables University of St. Augustine.

Newborn medical students, physical therapy students, residency and continuing education students learn from cadavers, according to UM Willpower Program website. Not everyone can donate: Cancer patients are accepted, but some remains are rejected for reasons such as serious injuries, weighing over 250 pounds, or infectious diseases.

I’m not familiar with the program, so I was surprised that South Florida schools received 105 remains last year, which “satisfied our needs,” said David Hoodiman, director of body donation services at the School of Medicine. Again, I was surprised that more women than men donated their bodies; a ratio of 2:1, he said.

Hoodiman, who is licensed as a funeral director, said donors must make their own arrangements to transport their remains to the university, which typically costs between $800 and $3,000 for preparation and transportation.

Hoodiman said his staff performed additional embalming on the body because those embalming must last up to two years, depending on when the person died relative to the academic calendar. He said everyone who had access to the cadaver lab had to sign a “respect oath” vowing not to eat, joke or be photographed near the body.

The corpse is cremated after use. The remains may be transferred to a location of your choice, or the ashes may be scattered across the Atlantic Ocean by the Anatomy Committee.

If medical student education does not appeal to you, other options include National Donate Life Registry (Donate Life Web) or via Florida Lions Eye Bank (

and also florida brain bank For those who have had age-related dementia for at least one year (

If you have more questions about UM’s body donation program, Hoodiman said you can contact him anytime. Call 305-243-6691 or email

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