The Elder Law Forum

The Elder Law Forum by Professor Michael Myers Editor's Note: The Elder Law Forum is a public service of the University of South Dakota School of Law, an extension of the SENIOR LEGAL HOTLINE available at no cost to persons 60 and older at 605-677-6343 and during regular business hours. The Elder Law Forum delivers information and educational material by radio, a weekly newspaper column, and Law School research papers placed on the USD School of Law Web site. Professor Myers teaches Elder Law at the School of Law.

Over 55? Consider

Body Donation

If you are over 55 and an organ donor, while you may not be "over the hill," your organs are. "They will take your corneas," says University of South Dakota Medical School Diener Paul Bliss. "But, generally, the rest of your body is not suitable for transplantation."

As the "diener," Bliss is responsible for receiving and caring for bodies donated to the medical school for anatomical study by students enrolled in medicine, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and physician assistant courses.

Also, he oversees the USD Medical School Body Donation Program.

Bliss appeared on this week's Elderlaw Forum radio program and asked listeners to consider donating their bodies to the school. "It is a generous, thoughtful, and truly beneficial gift, one that contributes to the education of clinicians throughout the region," he said. Also, it is inexpensive: 65 cents per mile for transporting the body.

Here is how it works: The donor contacts Mr. Bliss at 605-677-5141 or e-mail He provides an information brochure containing the necessary consent forms, which are executed and returned to his office.

At the time of death the body is taken to a funeral home selected by the family, where it is embalmed. The body may be retrieved by Bliss immediately, or after a memorial service, or traditional funeral, as determined by the family.

After the anatomical study cycle is completed the body is cremated. At a cost of $75 the ashes will be returned to the family, or alternatively the ashes may be interred at a special plot located in the BluffView Cemetery, Vermillion.

The bodies serve a collateral educational purpose. Each year high school students from South Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska tour the medical school's gross anatomy laboratory as a field extension of their anatomy and biology courses.

Bliss says the tour is often a memorable one for students, who years later vividly recall the experience. Many say it drew them to a career in healthcare. Over 55 and an organ donor? Give Mr. Bliss a call.

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