When Bodies Revealed opens Friday at Union Station, the Department of Burnt Ends figures people all over town will be asking themselves one question: How can I get my own cadaver in on the action?
The answer is, you can't unless you're a cadaver from China. Which you're not.
But don't worry: Dale R. Abrahamson wants your corpse. Abrahamson is professor and chairman of anatomy and cell biology at KU Med Center, the main source for cadaver specimens in Kansas City. When we called Abrahamson, he offered this step-by-step guide to giving away your body.
Over at the Med Center, they're a little more intellectual about beauty. Precancerous cells and a distended liver are the thinking-man's hot. Your vices make for great lessons when the med students begin their prodding.
If you're obese or emaciated, Abrahamson warns that it can "grotesquely" affect your body. (If only Mom had explained it that way.) So the best cadavers will be about average weight, which is good to keep in mind before ordering that frozen custard.
As in dating, a highly infectious disease is a deal breaker. So is getting an autopsy before your body can be donated. So try to die a natural death close to KU Med, because your corpse will need to make it there in 24 hours.
Worried that nobody will show up for your funeral? Really? Well, donating your body to science will ensure a touching service. Each fall, second-year med students hold a memorial service for all the donated cadavers, and family members get to attend. Afterward, you'll be cremated and returned — assuming your family wants you. If not, there's a lovely spot at the Oak Hill Cemetery in Lawrence where unwanted ashes are interred.
If you donate your body to science, don't expect to be on display in a museum, permanently kicking a soccer ball. "In a perfect world, you could decide what happened to your remains," Abrahamson says. "But it's impossible to predict where the need will be." Chances are, you'll spend the next two years under the gaze of medical students. But you may just end up as the test subject for some new surgical instrument in need of FDA approval.
Fly to rural China and lose your ID before you die. Who knows? Maybe your unclaimed body will end up as part of Bodies Revealed II.