weather icon Clear

How to donate your body to science

Updated April 19, 2017 - 10:46 pm

When they die, Joy and Harlan Dotson wish to donate their bodies to science, preferably a local medical school. But they don’t know how to go about it. They asked if I could help.

Before I researched the how-to part for the Las Vegas couple, I needed answers about why.

I am an organ donor, and any part of my body that can be helpful to someone else is up for grabs. Have at it. But I had never considered volunteering to become a cadaver for medical students.

“As Christians we believe this body is finished when we die. As soon as we die, the soul goes to heaven,” Harlan Dotson said.

The good news is that Joy and Harlan, members of the Upland Bible Church and Las Vegans since 2003, are healthy, and death is not imminent for either.

“What they do with the body is insignificant,” he said. “We have a clear understanding of what happens after our deaths. As soon as we die, our soul and our spirit are with Jesus Christ.”

With the why answered, I started working on the how-to, and it wasn’t as easy as I had anticipated.

The fledgling UNLV Medical School won’t have a cadaver lab. Instructors there plan to teach residents through 3-D virtual anatomy rather than a hands-on lab.

Touro University has a cadaver lab, but it obtains bodies from a school in Texas. Touro’s CEO Shelley Berkley wrote in an email: “Touro does have a cadaver lab with 50 cadavers. We do not have a direct willed body program. We receive our cadavers in August and return the ashes in May. Our students do an appreciation ceremony before the bodies are returned to the school for return to the families.”

The University of Nevada, Reno has had a donor program but only for Northern Nevada residents, which leaves the Dotson family out. Their daughter also wants to donate her body to science.

Joyce King, UNR’s program administrator for anatomical donations, said the statewide donor program ended March 21, 2016.

The program in Clark County ended because no Las Vegas mortuaries wanted to deal with the necessary steps, including transporting the bodies, particularly after the UNLV School of Medicine decided against using cadavers.

UNR’s program is going strong.

“We have a pretty good donor base and receive requests for packets on almost a daily base,” King said. UNR receives about 50 people a year who volunteer to donate their bodies to UNR’s School of Medicine.

She said some people donate for religious reasons, and some people believe their cause of death is so unusual, they might be a learning tool.

Jokesters say, “Well, I always wanted to go to medical school.”

Trying to be helpful, King suggested the Dotsons might consider donating their bodies to MERIN, a private business in Henderson, which accepts cadavers for educational purposes. The bodies donated here, stay here.

Chuck Oddo, head of the Medical Education & Research Institute of Nevada said his company receives about 90 to 100 donations from Clark and Nye counties. Anyone interested can call 702-856-2650 for an appointment.

Private companies that accept cadavers and harvest organs popped up on Google. Science Care, founded in 2000, advertises on its website, www.sciencecare.com, that it is “a no-cost alternative to traditional burial.”

The Dotsons will have to check out the possibilities and make a decision about what works best for them.

I’m sticking with donating my organs for much-needed transplants and am comfortable with Nevada Donor Network, founded in 1987.

Its helpful website at www.nvdonor.org shows how many people in Nevada are waiting for specific organ transplants, making my eventual donation more personal.

“It blows my mind that people do not want to think about what happens after death,” Harlan Dotson said. “Death is only a transfer of residence.”

Jane Ann Morrison’s column runs Thursdays in the Nevada section. Contact her at jane@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0275. Follow @janeannmorrison on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Cab riders experiencing no-shows urged to file complaints

If a cabbie doesn’t show, you must file a complaint. Otherwise, the authority will keep on insisting it’s just not a problem, according to columnist Jane Ann Morrison. And that’s not what she’s hearing.

Are no-shows by Las Vegas taxis usual or abnormal?

In May former Las Vegas planning commissioner Byron Goynes waited an hour for a Western Cab taxi that never came. Is this routine or an anomaly?

Columnist shares dad’s story of long-term cancer survival

Columnist Jane Ann Morrison shares her 88-year-old father’s story as a longtime cancer survivor to remind people that a cancer diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean a hopeless end.

Las Vegas author pens a thriller, ‘Red Agenda’

If you’re looking for a good summer read, Jane Ann Morrison has a real page turner to recommend — “Red Agenda,” written by Cameron Poe, the pseudonym for Las Vegan Barry Cameron Lindemann.

Las Vegas woman fights to stop female genital mutilation

Selifa Boukari McGreevy wants to bring attention to the horrors of female genital mutilation by sharing her own experience. But it’s not easy to hear. And it won’t be easy to read.

Biases of federal court’s Judge Jones waste public funds

Nevada’s most overturned federal judge — Robert Clive Jones — was overturned yet again in one case and removed from another because of his bias against the U.S. government.

Don’t forget Jay Sarno’s contributions to Las Vegas

Steve Wynn isn’t the only casino developer who deserves credit for changing the face of Las Vegas. Jay Sarno, who opened Caesars Palace in 1966 and Circus Circus in 1968, more than earned his share of credit too.

John Momot’s death prompts memories of 1979 car fire

Las Vegas attorney John Momot Jr. was as fine a man as people said after he died April 12 at age 74. I liked and admired his legal abilities as a criminal defense attorney. But there was a mysterious moment in Momot’s past.