The Body Farm doesn’t solicit body donations, its director, Dawnie Wolfe Steadman, told me, because it doesn’t need to. The staff participates in documentaries and gives presentations to educate the public about what it does and why it matters. People who are interested get in touch because they like the idea of their bodies being used to help the criminal justice system.
“Some people are teachers who want to keep teaching after they’re gone, some people want to be useful forever and ever, some people have known a crime victim,” Dr. Steadman said. “There are all sorts of reasons for donation, one for every person, and we’re grateful for all of them.”
The center does its best to accommodate the families of people who haven’t preregistered as donors, but submitting the detailed donation application is the best way to ensure a plot on the Body Farm. The process reminded me of applying to colleges — except that my alma mater didn’t ask about my height and weight, medical and dental history, shoe size or scars and tattoos, never mind my childhood socioeconomic status and every place I’d ever lived for more than a year.