What’s Happening with Christopher Hitchens’ Body? December 25, 2011

What’s Happening with Christopher Hitchens’ Body?

We have an answer, courtesy of Steve Wasserman, Hitchens’ literary agent:

“In accordance with Christopher’s wishes, his body was donated to medical research. Memorial gatherings will occur next year.”

I wouldn’t have expected anything less.

Please consider donating your body (and organs) after you die — there’s no better way to “live on” than helping people learn and live even after your own passing. Each state has different rules/requirements, but a couple starting points are here and here.

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  • Much less selfish than cremation (put it on someone’s mantle to be forgotten as decoaration) or burial (wasting space on this planet for your body to rot away). I will definitely consider this.

  • Much less selfish than cremation (put it on someone’s mantle to be forgotten as decoaration) or burial (wasting space on this planet for your body to rot away). I will definitely consider this.

  • Another very good option is donating one’s body to a “body farm” where studying their process of decomposition adds to forensic science. Article at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_farm

  • george.w

    Whew! For a moment there I was afraid someone was making “Empty Tomb” claims…

  • Istj04

    Can a person be both an ORGAN DONOR (definitely “paying forward” life-sustaining activities!) AND a “BODY DONOR”? There appears to be a conflict in trying to satisfy BOTH recipients, though both are of equal value in “recipientness”.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, you can, here at least (it’s even done on the same form). Generally (or at least where I live) organ donation is considered higher priority than medical research. However, it is relatively uncommon for someone to be able to donate their organs.

    If I understand it correctly, the organs can only be used if there is brain death, because the body keeps the organs functioning, but the person is legally dead. In that case any viable organs would be donated to those in need of them; the remainder may or may not have use in research. Otherwise the body would go entirely to research. Either way a measure of good as been done even beyond one’s time.

  • Sara W.

    I’m an organ donor, can I also be a body donor??

  • Sara W.

    I’m an organ donor, can I also be a body donor??

  • I lost my father two weeks ago to a sudden brain bleed at age 66. Within a few hours of the onset of symptoms his mental function was gone. His wish to have his organs donated help my mother, my family, and I to better cope with our loss. He was always helping people throughout his life without a second thought and was always smiling. His final gifts helped save the lives of three people and helped give sight to two boys. Knowing this is helping us get through this tough time.

  • I’ve signed up to be a body donor, and so has my husband. Both the kids have the little heart symbol on their driver’s licenses that identifies them as organ donors, but they’re not quite at the point where they want to think about what’s supposed to happen to their mortal remains.
    BTW, an additional benefit of being a body donor is that there won’t be any expensive cremation/burial costs 🙂

  • Timothy Singer

    I know that in Tennessee, the only thing you need to do to become an organ donor is sign the back of your drivers’ license; this is considered the final word on the deceased’s wishes. I have of course checked the “full body” box, but if you like you can restrict it to certain organs.

  • Spencer

    If cryonics or something similar doesn’t develop and cheapen enough to useful when I’m close to dying I’ll definitely do this.

  • Anonymous

    Didn’t you hear, Hitchens as risen!

  • I decided to donate my body to science after reading Mary Roach’s great book ‘Stiff’.  Doing so will further two things I love:  science, and not paying for stupid things like funerals.  

    Now to convince my husband.

  • How do you know you’re not “close to dying” right now?

  • Natasha Gow

    I am down as an organ donor, parents (who are set to make the end decision at this point) cant get it out of their heads that ‘you should be buried complete’. 

  • Mike

    He’ll be the only cadaver recognizable purely by the size of his liver.

  • BdrLen

    Even if you fill out your organ donor card and all the other paperwork families will often not follow the deceased person’s wishes. The wishes of the next of kin can be taken above the deceased person’s in some jurisdictions if there is doubt as to their wishes. the most important part of the process talking to your next of kin and ensuring they understand and will respect your wishes.

  • Anonymous

    If you liked Mary Roach’s “Stiff,” you’re gonna love “Bonk,” her book about scientific research into sex.  She is hilarious.  She has another one on the afterlife, haven’t read that one yet.

  • Ungullible

    It appears that most whole body donations are only accepted in state due to high transportation costs for out-of-state donations.  Here’s a link for a list of medical schools that accept donations, by state. http://www.med.ufl.edu/anatbd/usprograms.html

    Like many here, my preferences in order are to be an organ donor if possible, a whole body donor if organ donation isn’t viable, and a body farm (decomposition) donor last.  It’s in my will, but now I know how to pre-register and make sure it happens.  Thanks Hitch!

  • Rich Wilson

    Neil deGrasse Tyson had a great response to this.  
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afGkv0IT4dU (although the context probably affected his answer, I’m sure he’d be for organ/body donation too).

    Both of my maternal grandparents willed their bodies to UCLA medical school but they were deemed unacceptable due to age/condition/previous surgery, so they were both cremated. 

  • Father’s long told me his wishes to have his body donated to medical research, but he hasn’t filed out the paperwork yet. I have a similar last wish and I better get on it, as nobody knows when they’re going to die.

  • Maggie Rum

    Shortly after I was diagnosed with a rare cancer at 17, my mom and I had a lighthearted but morbid conversation about what she would do if I passed, however unlikely it was. We hadn’t discussed it before, but I’m very happy the first thing she said was “donate organs that the cancer hasn’t fucked up, then donate your body to doctors studying histiocytosis so another mom wouldn’t have to do the same.” I burst into tears, but I was very happy she knew what I wanted.

    Luckily I’m 21 and a year in remission, so hopefully when I do donate my body, it won’t be only for histio research.

  • Kfk

    re donating your organs: most people don’t qualify. Your organs can be transplanted only if they are not affected by illness or age (the ideal donor is a young non smoking teetotaller having a car accident just in front ot the hospital). 
    Your body is interesting for medical research if you have a special illness, and it can be used for medical training, but the avarage old person’s dead body is not very interesting for medical research. Also, after researchers have dissected it, you still have to dispose of it…

  • MariaO

    I heard an interview with  Hitchen’s doctor on the BBC a few days ago. The only thing the reporter was really interested in was to get the (xian) doctor to say that H repented and became xian in the end. The doctor refused to say so, much to his credit! In fact he emphasised he died with the same beliefs he lived. But the reporter really tried…


  • Rich Wilson

    Can’t listen from my phone, but was that Francis Collins?

  • Anonymous

    It doesn’t work that way. You need to have your arrangements & funding in place well in advance. Most cryonicists I know also use life insurance as the funding mechanism, which gets the costs down to something most Americans can afford.

    BTW,  we can’t depend on letting cryonics “develop” by wishing that someone else does the work. We’ve seen how well that has worked out for all the other futuristic stuff we don’t have in 2012 but thought we would have now because we expected that somebody, somewhere, would do it for us. (Q: What did we used to call stories, movies and TV shows set in that far-future 2012? A: “Science fiction.” Now we look at next month and think, “Jeez, tax time again?”)

     Serious cryonicists have to get more involved in making cryonics work, because the rest of society generally doesn’t give a crap about it and doesn’t have it on its to-do lists.

  • I’m not sure about other body parties, but normal brains are *very* important for medical research, as they provide the “controlled” data. And there’s quite a shortage of donated brains, in Canada at least.


  • SomeoneSmall

    I love that book!

  • SomeoneSmall

    Wasting space…? Isn’t this how death and decomposition are supposed to work? I believe dead things are good for the soil – good compost, ya know. Or am I missing something? Furthermore, if dead bodies are bad for the earth, would not cremation solve this bizarre dilemma? :

  • Wasting space, as in, wasting land area that would otherwise be used for anything else but a rotting body. I didn’t necessarily mean wasting space inside the earth… which would still be the case, as you have a wooden box wasting that space. And it is also a waste of wood and brass and whatever else coffins are made of. So yes, a waste of space.

  • Valere B.

    Due to long lifespans in my family, I doubt I’ll be eligible at my advanced age to be an organ donor, but I’m signed up with that.  I will most likely be a good candidate for body donation to medical science and I’ve arranged this through MedCure (www.medcure.org).  This way my arrangements are solid regardless of where I am living at the time of my death.

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