While death is a biological surety, how bodies are dealt with after death is largely cultural. In the United States, the most normative funerary practices are burial and cremation. Whole body donation to research facilities—including anthropological research centers—is much less common. At the same time, such donations are critical to ensure the continuation of important research. To examine this issue, and particularly to provide insight to potential body donors as well as the directors and staff of research facilities, the authors consider the factors that cause individuals and family members to choose body donation. Through interviews with both living and next-of-kin donors, we identified three primary motivations: an interest in the scientific process, a desire to be helpful, and a desire for an alternative to a traditional funeral. Living donors also noted the cost-effectiveness of body donation, while next-of-kin donors discussed honoring their loved ones' wishes.

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