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You Can Have It- I Don't Need It Anymore

July 25, 2014

By Mary Beth Wighton
Prior to the Anatomy Act of Ontario in 1843, there was not a legal process for the medical community to obtain corpses to be used for dissection or anatomy lectures in medical schools. Instructors had to rely on body-snatchers for cadavers. In the late 1870's, in Ontario, a cadaver could fetch $30 $50. (Body-Snatching in Ontario. Royce MacGillivray). Thankfully, laws now regulate how a corpse can be obtained, and mirrors the need for necessary studies and research.

I have always been a firm believer in donating my organs and tissue upon my death. I have signed the back of my drivers license indicating this decision, and have made my wishes known. Health Canada states one organ and tissue donor can save up to eight lives and help 75 more. But, I had never given it much thought about donating my brain. That was until I was diagnosed with Frontotemporal Lobe Dementia (FTD). Information that I read about this disease, indicates that at postmortem the brain shows massive loss of nerve cells and considerable shrinkage. Scientists are working hard to understand this.

It is likely that there are several genetic changes that cause this disease. Research is concentrating on identifying changes on different genes on different chromosomes. For me, all this means is that there is no cure but scientists are trying. I asked myself, how can I help in obtaining a cure for this terrible disease? Upon research, I discovered a scientist by the name of Dr. Lili-Naz Hazarati who is a neuropathologist. She works at The Tanz Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Medicine. She conducts autopsies and is a specialist in Alzheimer's. The Centre's website encourages people interested in participating in research on the causes of Frontotemporal dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases, to contact them. This includes brain donation.

So, I did just that. I contacted the Doctor. We had a brief conversation on the telephone. I told her I had FTD and would like to donate my brain. I am waiting on a referral for Dr. Tiffany Chow and the appointment will probably take place in April in Toronto. She stated she had worked with Dr. Chow before and will contact her directly on the steps necessary to move forward. We will discuss “transportation” at a later date. It was as simple as that.

Sometimes it is necessary and extremely important to discuss topics in which it makes people uneasy. I seem to have become more matter-of-fact about some of these topics. I have not been granted the luxury to decide on these things at a later date. I must do it now – today. I do not know what tomorrow will bring. Neither do you – Reader. What are you waiting for? If the donation of my brain helps just one person, then my gift to science has been well-worth it. I believe that my soul will leave my body upon my death and enter heaven. Therefore, I won't need my brain anymore. You can have it.