Editorial: Unique altruism: Donate body to science

A sentence in an obituary last week contained an interesting message for readers to consider. And it hints at the mindset of that newly deceased Clovis man, retired banker Stephen Parker Hoxie Jr.

The sentence read: "His body has been donated to science, at his request, because he thought that that would be cool."

Fittingly, that line in Hoxie's obituary contained a photo of him with a wide grin plastered on his face. And it tied in well with another sentence outlining his altruistic participation in non-profit groups — Kiwanis and Lions clubs, United Way and the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce.

Donating your body is a gift that can benefit mankind for decades to come. Medical students who go on to serve their communities are most often the recipients, as they learn using cadavers of people of all ages, from puberty on up.

In this area, most body donations involve Texas Tech, where Claude Lobstein has been director of the Lubbock university's Willed Body Donation Program since 1973.

Last year the program handled 226 such donations among the Lubbock, El Paso and San Angelo campuses as well as for Hardin-Simmons University and as far away as the University of Georgia. (Nationally, statistics are not kept but estimates are that 10,000 to 12,000 bodies are donated a year to medical schools, according to a 2006 USA Today story.)

Russell Muffley and Joe Champouillon, funeral home directors in Clovis who each estimated two to three clients a year end up in the Tech program, said Tech is used because the University of New Mexico program isn't accepting such donations outside of the Albuquerque area.

Both men and Lobstein recommend anyone considering either body or organ donations to do so in advance. Not all universities accept body donations after death if paperwork isn't already done. Body donation forms are not online because anyone anywhere could submit a donation that way, and logistics involving body pickup are a problem. Lobstein said he will send forms out if anyone interested will call him at 806-743-2700, extension 266.

Who knows what outcome may result should you generously will your body to science. A student might simply learn a correct procedure to follow that will make her or him a better medical practictioner. Or, the cause might be larger in scope, as Champouillon discovered decades ago in Oklahoma. One of his clients had been a scientist during atomic bomb development in Los Alamos in World War II. Upon his death he had willed his brain to science in a unique program that studied whether men and women working at Los Alamos had been affected by radiation.

Unfortunately, Champouillon never learned the outcome of those findings about his customer.

Nonetheless, the late Stephen Hoxie would no doubt endorse it if everyone would at least consider an after-life act that might benefit their fellow man. Because it is a cool idea.

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