If you’re interested in eliminating your funeral/burial costs, while at the same time helping advance medical research, you may want to consider donating your body to science!

Each year, it’s estimated that approximately 20,000 people donate their whole body, after death, to medical facilities throughout the country to be used in medical research projects, anatomy lessons and surgical practice.

After using your body, these facilities will then provide free cremation and will either bury or scatter your ashes in a local cemetery or return them to your family, usually within a year.

And, just in case you’re wondering, your family cannot not be paid for the use of your body. Federal and state laws prohibit it.

Here are a few other things you need to know and check into, to help you determine whether whole-body donation is right for you:

Acceptance rules: Most body donation programs will not accept bodies that are extremely obese, or those that have infectious diseases like hepatitis, tuberculosis, H.I.V. or MRSA. Bodies that suffered extensive trauma won’t be accepted either.

Organ donation: Most medical school programs require that you donate your whole body in its entirety. So, if you want to be an organ donor (with the exception of your eyes), you probably won’t qualify to be a whole-body donor too.

Religious considerations: Most major religions permit individuals to donate both their full body and organs, and many even encourage it. If you are unsure, you should consult with your pastor or spiritual adviser.

Special requests: Most programs will not allow you to donate your body for a specific purpose. You give them the body and they decide how to use it.

Memorial options: Most programs require almost immediate transport of the body after death, so there’s no funeral. If your family wants a memorial service, they can have one without the body. Or, some programs offer memorial services at their facility at a later date without the remains.

Body transporting: Most programs will cover transporting your body to their facility within a certain distance. However, some may charge a fee.

How to Proceed

If you think you want to donate your body, it’s best to make arrangements in advance with a body donation program in your area. Most programs are offered through university-affiliated medical schools.

In Oklahoma, your two options are the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center Willed Body Program in Oklahoma City (405-271-2424, ext. 1), and the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences Body Donor Program in Tulsa (918-561-1250).

Once you decide on a program, call and ask them to mail you an information/registration packet that will explain exactly how their program works.

To sign up, you’ll simply need to fill out a couple of forms and return them. But you can always change your mind if you wish.

After you have made arrangements, you then need to tell your family members so they will know what to do and who to contact after your death. It’s also a good idea to tell your doctors, so they know your final wishes too.