Which end of life option is right for you and your loved ones?

Which end of life option is right for you and your loved ones?

Each day, potential donors ask us about the differences between burial, cremation, university donation, organ donation, and body donation to science.  We certainly understand the need to know the difference, as it is a very important choice to make.  Here at Science Care, we only coordinate body donation to science.  But the truth of the matter is, donating your body to science may not be the best fit for you.  In fact, burial, cremation, or donation to a university donation program may be the better option.  We would like to explain the differences between each of these end-of-life options in an honest and transparent manner, allowing you to identify the best fit for you and your loved ones.


Burial best fits families wanting a traditional viewing or funeral service. The body is typically embalmed, placed in a casket, and then a cemetery plot. The average cost for a burial and funeral service is $9,000-$10,000.  Costs usually vary based on location, the casket choice, plot, service, transportation, administrative and permitting fees. A newer and less traditional approach is Green Burials, an eco-friendly biodegradable casket option, that is generally less expensive.


Cremation has grown to be the most common end-of-life choice, offering a variety of options for final disposition.  Remains are placed in an urn, interred in a tomb or mausoleum, or scattered over a favorite place.  This option can be more cost effective and allows for a funeral and viewing.  The average cost for a cremation is $500-$3,000. If you choose direct cremation, you can choose to opt away from a traditional funeral home and go with a cremation service, to reduce costs.

University donation

University donation is gifting the body to a willed body program at a medical school or teaching hospital to allow medical students to train before extending care to the public. Often, cremated remains are either not returned or returned after 1-3 years in the program.  Some programs will pay for the embalming, transportation and cremation and others will ask the family to pay for these expenses. Donations can be declined at the time of passing, so alternate arrangements are recommended.

Organ donation

Organ donation is when a donor can potentially save the life of another through live transplantation. Once organ donation is complete, you also have the option to donate your body to science or proceed with burial or cremation.  If you choose to do both organ donation and body donation to science, it is important you sign up for both programs individually and make your wishes known to your loved ones. There is no cost to organ donation, but there may be costs associated with transportation and final disposition depending on the option chosen by you or your loved ones after tissue or organ recovery. It is estimated only 3 in 1,000 people die in a way that allows for organ donation.  If you want to have the option to donate your body to science after organ donation, or in lieu of organ donation if you do not pass in a way allowing for organ donation, it is recommended you explore alternate arrangements with a non-transplant tissue bank in advance.

Donating your body to science

This is gifting the body to a non-transplant tissue bank. Tissue is placed with medical research and training programs to further medical knowledge and advancements. This option is one of the most cost-effective options for end-of-life.  Most who register will be accepted. Return of remains vary by program. Unless you register or enroll with a program that offers guaranteed acceptance, donations can be declined at the time of passing based on needs in current research projects at the time of passing, so alternate arrangements are recommended.Once you decide on your end-of-life option, it is important to do your research. Select a provider that best meets your personal needs, cost, location, service options, affiliations, accreditations, or personal wishes. Ensure you understand all associated costs and fees so there are no surprises to your loved ones, and your wishes can be fully honored.  The most important thing is knowing and understanding all your options so you can make an informed decision that works best for you and your loved ones.

Post written by Renee Wihlborg

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