What happens when you donate your body to science

AURORA, Colo. – Inside the operating room, the doctors are experts - but, have you ever thought about how they learned those delicate skills?

“Nobody wants to have a doctor practice on them so that’s what a non-transplant does,” Larissa Pohorily said.

A non-transplant is a full-body donation of a deceased person’s remains where none of the tissues will be transplanted into other living humans. They are better known as cadavers, or bodies that have been donated to science.

“You want to do something good at the end of your life and this is an option to do that,” Pohorily said.

She is the Founder and CEO of Meaningful Donation, a non-transplant body donation program in Aurora. Along with her dad, they take in bodies to match donors to doctors.

“So, we’re the middle man,” she said.

When a person dies, if they want their body donated to Meaningful Donation, they will be transported to their Aurora facility.

“We dissect the actual donor here and then we’ll freeze and we’ll find different surgeons or doctors that will need the donor for various medical trainings,” Pohorily said.

They are often contacted by University of Colorado, dentistry programs, Children’s Hospital and other medical research and training facilities in Colorado. They have also partnered with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs in Los Angeles to supply brains for a study on Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.

Meaningful Donations makes money by charging fees for the tissues. For example, a foot or a shoulder runs $250, while a brain costs $500-$600 to harvest and ship.

All tissues at Meaningful Donation are leased and returned to the facility to be re-used until they are no longer viable. They do not sell human tissues.

“Nobody is just purchasing a limb and keeping it,” Pohorily said.

Tissues can also be repurposed and reused several times before having to be retired, at which point Meaningful Donation cremates them. Donations can last for several years.

“It’s really about just being knowledgeable about how to really make sure that donor is going to as many trainings as possible,” Pohorily said.

In return, families are given a small cremated portion of their loved one’s rib in a keepsake urn or scattering tube. They also  get peace of mind that their friend or family member is being used to advance medical science in ways that would otherwise be impossible.

“It really is something that will affect the entire world,” she said. “One donor can train up to 30 doctors and each doctor is going to help countless people.”