More families choosing to donate their loved one's bodies to science

You've probably heard people jokingly say, “When I die, I'm donating my body to science.”

However, there are real families in mourning, who make the choice to donate their loved ones' bodies to medical research.

Doctors with the Cleveland Clinic told News 5 this is actually a growing trend.

Two families from Northeast Ohio shared their reasons behind the unique decision.

Dani Tengler of Parma shared a picture of her beloved mother-in-law with her daughter at a dance recital.

She decided to donate her mother-in-law's body to science — a decision she made with her husband.

“She [her mother-in-law] walked completely upright, no arthritis to speak of, all her organs were pristine, yet her mind was failing,” said Tengler.

Her husband’s mom, Bertha Tengler had dementia. Her disease was what led to their decision to donate her body after her death.

“More research needs to be done in this area, it's so difficult on families,” said Dani Tengler.

She talked about her faith, saying her family members are people of both God and science.

“The way we look at it is that this is not our home, we will be with her again,” she said. “This is truly what she would've wanted.”

Julie Cox and her brother, James Renfor, came to the similar conclusion after their sibling was diagnosed with a rare form of Alzheimer’s Disease.

“Look at the brain, look at that body and help others in the future and leave a legacy for my brother,” she said.

At the same time, they said they wanted their brother, Toby Allen, to be remembered not for his disease but for being a loving brother, son and friend, and someone who loved animals.

“It doesn’t matter if you're a purebred or a mutt, he would still love you,” said James Renfor.

These families, who donated their loved one’s bodies, surprisingly said it wasn’t a hard decision to make.
“It helps me in my mourning to know that this was not in vain,” said Cox.

They said the actual hard part was losing a beloved family member.

“She was my second mother, and I miss her,” said Tengler.

Doctors with the Cleveland Clinic said more families are choosing this option of donating their loved one’s bodies.

“In 2004, we had just about 40 donations,” said Dr. Jennifer McBride, Associate Director of the Body Donation Program, “and now we're up to about 232.”

So what exactly happens to these bodies?

“We do more than just medical education,” said Dr. McBride, “also clinically-based research and advancement of medical technology.”

She said all medical schools have their own body donation program. The donated bodies are used for medical research and training for doctors for 6 months to a year, before they are cremated. Then, they are usually returned to their surviving loved ones.

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