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'Upstate Answers' question on funerals after organ donation

Q: “When somebody in my family dies, we have an open casket at the calling hours. If I sign up to be an organ donor, can I still have an open casket when my time comes?”

--Tim Jones of Syracuse

A: “Many people have the same concerns, so thank you for the opportunity to reassure that someone who has donated his or her organs can still have an open casket. Donation does not disfigure the body or change the way it looks in a casket.

“Every donor is treated with great care and dignity during the donation process, including careful reconstruction of one‘s body. Surgery lines will be fully covered by most clothing chosen for the viewing. For skin donation, skin is taken from the back and the legs and is not visible with clothing. For bone donation, a stand-in plastic bone is used to allow the shape of the arms and legs to remain the same. For eye donations, plastic caps are placed over the eye to maintain the shape of the closed eyelid.

“Organ donation, as a rule, does not delay funeral plans.”

-- Nurse Ellen Havens, certified clinical transplant coordinator, Upstate Transplant Clinic.

If you have a question for Upstate Answers, send it to whatsup@upstate.edu and it may appear in a future issue of Upstate Health magazine.