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“The option to donate for medical research was my mother’s final wish.” – Lisa

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible for the Southwest Institute of Bio-Advancement’s Program?
We make every effort to include as many individuals that wish to enroll in our program. Almost anyone interested can qualify regardless of age and health. Please contact SWIBA to have all your questions answered regarding our program and eligibility.
If I am an organ donor for transplant, can I still be a medical education and research donor?
This is decided case-by-case as there is not a definite answer to this question. It depends on which organs and tissues were donated for transplant and what current human specimens are needed by medical educators and researchers. Contact SWIBA with any qualification questions.
Why are human specimens needed for medical education?

There is no substitute for human specimens when studying the body for medical education. Physicians, medical educators and students throughout the world rely on human tissue for the most accurate hands on learning and training opportunities available. 

Some examples of these opportunities are:

  • Perfecting orthopedic surgical procedures. It is imperative that medical device companies use human specimens in their research and development stage to ensure the success of their product. The newer generation of implants (knee, hip etc) has vastly improved the lives of people in need of joint replacements.
  • Advancing minimally invasive surgical techniques. Many of the surgeries that would have left large scars a decade ago now leave scars so small that they are often unnoticeable. Minimally invasive surgery also dramatically decreases the risks to the patient and vastly decreases their recovery time after surgery.
  • Surgical training. It is imperative that when learning a new surgical technique, a surgeon can use human specimens as opposed to learning on a patient. Whether it is a surgeon fresh out of school or an experienced surgeon learning a new technique or using a new device for the first time, we can all agree that having this occur in a training environment is preferred.
  • Providing students a greater understanding of the human anatomy.  There is no better way to understand the human body and its anatomy than to gain hands on experience. Textbooks and models cannot replicate the learning experience that can be provided by human specimens.
Why are human specimens needed for medical research?

Whether it be studying diseased or non-diseased tissue, human tissue is needed for research at a cellular level. There is no current alternative to human tissue. Some examples of how this tissue is used in research are:

  • Understanding disease processes. Medical researchers need human tissue to study the causes of debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, diabetes, cancer etc. It is through this understanding of how these diseases form and progress that they can develop therapies and eventually a cure.
  • Creating new pharmaceutical drugs. Before a new pharmaceutical drug is brought to market for the benefit of consumers, the pharmaceutical company will have used around 10,000 histology slides of human tissue.
How much cremains will be returned to me?
All donors are matched with the most relevant medical education and research programs. The family will receive less cremains than in a traditional cremation. It is difficult to determine the exact amount of cremains you will receive.
If I am declined as an organ donor for transplant, does that mean that I am also excluded from donating to medical education and research?
Transplant and medical education and research programs have very different exclusions. Transplant exclusions are much stricter than in medical education and research. Contact SWIBA with any qualification questions.
Can I specify the research program and/or institution I wish to donate to?
SWIBA cannot guarantee placement with a specific organization or area of study. We match our donors with the most relevant medical education and research programs. After the donation has taken place you can inquire about what types of medical education and research your loved one contributed to.
Can my family request cremated remains?
Yes. The return of cremated remains to the next-of-kin is an option. There is no charge to our donor families for requesting cremains.
How does my religion feel about whole-body donation?
Most religions are supportive of whole-body donation but SWIBA recommends checking with your spiritual advisor.
What is the corporate status of SWIBA and its affiliated medical education and research programs?
SWIBA is a for-profit, self-funded taxable organization. SWIBA works with both for-profit and non-profit medical education and research organizations nationally and internationally.
Where does SWIBA’s funding come from?
SWIBA is a self-funded Non-Transplant Anatomical Donation Organization that supplies universities, government agencies, corporations and private medical institutions with human specimens. These entities pay SWIBA directly for this service.
What happens to me after my acceptance into the SWIBA program?
SWIBA treats each donor with the utmost respect and dignity following the American Association of Tissue Bank Standards for Non-Transplant Anatomical Tissue Organizations. We evaluate each donor on a case-by-case basis using the medical and social information provided combined with a physical assessment. Medical education and research programs request specific anatomical specimens needed for their programs. In most circumstances the donor is matched with multiple medical institutions both nationally and internationally. SWIBA then dissects and removes anatomical specimens that will be utilized in their programs. What remains of the donor after the donation process is completed is cremated. The cremains are available to the Next-of–kin at no charge. The medical education and research doctors, clinical staff, medical device representatives or students then utilize the anatomical specimens to complete their specific medical education or research focus. After the use of these specimens, they are also cremated. Due to the timeframes and logistics involved with the various projects, the cremains from these anatomical specimens used for medical education and research are not available to be returned to the family.
Do I need to pre-register in order to be a SWIBA donor?
No, after death has occurred, your legal next-of-kin can consent you into the SWIBA program. However, SWIBA encourages each interested person to be proactive and get all of their questions answered and preregister prior to death.
Does an autopsy prohibit donation for medical education and research?
No, an autopsy does not exclude you from being accepted into the SWIBA program. Each donor will need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Are there any financial costs to the donor family associated with SWIBA’s program?

There is no cost to the donor or their family for the SWIBA program. Additionally, SWIBA pays for the following:

  • Cremation at a SWIBA approved funeral home or crematory
  • Transportation within the state of Arizona
  • Filing of all necessary paperwork
  • Shipping of cremains

However, there are many more options available if desired. A few examples of expenses that would NOT be covered by SWIBA are:

  • Custom urn
  • Memorial service
If I’m a SWIBA donor, can I have a traditional funeral service?

In most circumstances, the SWIBA donation process is quite extensive. The extent of each donor’s recovery varies depending on the donor’s age, height/weight and previous surgeries. What remains of the donor after the donation process is completed is taken to a funeral home or crematory to be cremated.

Due to the extent of the donation process, a traditional ‘open casket viewing’ is not possible. SWIBA cremates all donors, ruling out traditional burial. However, a closed casket service and burial with the cremains inside the casket is an option. 

How long will it take for my family to receive my cremains?

Donors are usually in our care for just a few days so donation adds very little, if any time to the cremation process. Cremated remains are usually returned to the family within a few weeks.

Is the personal information of donors kept confidential?

Absolutely. SWIBA adheres to strict confidentiality practices. All donors are assigned a unique identification number that is used throughout the donation process to keep the donor’s personal information confidential.

It is our goal to ensure that all of your questions are answered. If you have any questions or concerns please call us anytime. We are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Interested in Becoming a Whole Body Donor
for Medical Education and Research?

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