Final Wishes

Elizabeth Ortiz, MS, F-ABMDI

Mid-terms, one of the most dreaded words at a university. Those exams seem to pop up at the most unexpected time, even though at the beginning of the semester all students are given a syllabus indicating when this dreaded time will present itself. How students react to this time is all dependent on how much they have prepared for this event. The students who have been diligent with their studies are prepared to accept the challenge and those who have not, well that is a different story. They may try to delay the test or simply fail it.

Now we wonder why the unprepared students thought they could still be successful knowing those exams were going to take place. This same thought process can be applied to selecting final disposition of our bodies. We should all have our plans completed by a certain age or at least let family members know what your wishes are on final disposition. Whether you want your body to be donated for science, cremated or buried. Do you want a big service or just a memorial? Do you want it in a church, a park, a football stadium or a race track? Believe it or not, in my profession I have to sometimes guide families of a recently deceased person with final disposition. This should be a family choice and not when a death investigator is in the residence investigating the death.

Granted, some cases are not expected deaths and those arrangements are not even discussed. I understand those situations. The cases that make me wonder why they did not prepare are the hospice cases or the home health care patients or those who have serious medical ailments. We are all going to die, but facing the reality of it sometimes is a hard pill to swallow. I am not sure why people are afraid to talk about death. It is a part of life and those conversations need to happen in order to provide peace to the rest of the family who will be left with the task of making those final wishes come true.

For example, if you want to donate your body to science the donor needs to fill out an extensive questionnaire prior to their death. Some medical schools have too many donors and they might not accept your body upon death. What will be the next step? There are other groups willing to take the body for research but it might be to a university rather than a medical school. Will that be acceptable? If those are not the wishes of the deceased, then what would they want? Cremation? Burial? Embalmed? Wood casket? Metal Casket?

The choices are endless and that is why I believe this is a conversation that needs to take place when not under stress. Just like those mid-term exams, the student knows they will take place. We as a human race know death will one day be at our doorstep and we need to be prepared.