Gifts for Life Offers Free Cremation for Donors in Hawaii
Residents of the Hawaiian Islands are eligible for free cremation services through the Gifts for Life (GFL) Program. According to GFL’s website, the organization’s primary mission is “to obtain human cadavers for health science education and scientific study.”
Hawaii’s cremation rate highest in nation
Almost 70% of Hawaiians are cremated at death, making Hawaii’s cremation rate the highest in the nation, according to The Cremation Association of North America. One reason so many islanders choose cremation is to serve the greater good – Hawaii’s land shortage is a perennial concern, and cremation is seen as a responsible way to preserve open lands for future generations.
Those who choose to donate their bodies prior to cremation not only leave a gift of life through the advancement of medical research, but also have the relief of knowing that their loved ones will not be saddled with the expense of a traditional funeral, which can run as high as $10,000 or more.
Gifts for Life less restrictive than other donor programs
While the desire to leave a meaningful legacy runs high, good intentions often aren’t enough. Medical schools that accept whole body donations are often governed by strict exclusionary regulations. Many schools, for instance, will not accept donations from people who have undergone amputations or donated health organs to save another’s life. Some programs also charge a hefty fee to the family or estate of the deceased for transportation of the body to the medical school.
Gifts for Life, in contrast, accepts virtually all donations except in cases of communicable diseases like AIDS, Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C; extensive trauma at death; or advanced decomposition, which would make the body unsuitable for anatomical study. There is no upper age limit for whole body donation, nor does amputation automatically preclude acceptance.
“Being able to receive donations for learning is imperative to ground-breaking medical research,” says Dr. Greg Gerber of Gifts for Life, noting that there is no computer model or other acceptable substitute for a human cadaver in anatomical research.
How it works
State of Hawaii laws (HRS 327) permit an individual 18 years or older to donate his or her body to an appropriate organization, such as Gifts For Life. If an individual dies without signing a donation form, the next-of-kin or personal agent may authorize the donation of the remains, but if the donor is still living, he or she must personally complete the donation process. Gifts for Life will mail donation forms upon request, or the forms may be downloaded from the organization’s website (http://www.giftsforlifehawaii.com). The forms must be filled out and returned to GFL (the services of a lawyer or notary are not required to complete the process). Upon examination of the documents, GFL staff will issue a letter of acceptance and a donor identification card.
The only cost to the family or estate “may be the cost of transporting the deceased to a facility with refrigerated holding facilities (mortuary) if the person dies at home or in a facility that does not have refrigerated holding facilities,” according to GFL’s website.
Following study of the body, typically within 3 months after the donation, Gifts for Life will cremate the remains and either return them to the family or perform a memorial ceremony on the peaceful waters surrounding the islands.