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Family heartbroken after final wish to have body donated to medicine denied
Published Tuesday, February 14, 2017 6:28PM MST
It’s something thousands of Albertans have signed up for, to have their bodies donated to medical research after their deaths, but the rules of changed, and the rule change came too late to ensure one man’s final wish was granted.
Connie Ewashko’s father, Don Gray, signed up to donate his body to medical research.
“He felt he didn’t have a lot to offer society, and he wanted to leave some kind of a mark on his life,” Ewashko said.
“I said ‘Yep dad, it’s all taken care of, Alberta Health has the forms, and it’s all taken care of’.”
A year later, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer – and days before his death, the 88-year-old reminded the doctors and nurses at the Grey Nuns Hospital of his wishes.
“They all said ‘Yeah, that’s great’,” Ewashko said.
Hours after her father’s death, Ewashko received a call that his body, riddled with cancer, was rejected because of the amount of cancer.
The family was never warned that could happen.
“I was very frantic, I was frantic that day,” Ewashko said.
Alberta Health said changes were recently made to the form whole body donors fill out – a section was added telling people to contact the University’s Anatomical Gift Program to understand what the donation means, including the fact not all bodies are accepted.
Many aren’t aware of that step, and Alberta Health is working on contacting the 9,000 people in Alberta who have indicated they want to be body donors.
“I want people to know that in addition to signing up, if you are wanting your whole body to be used for science, there is a process to reach out to the U of A or U of C,” Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said.
Ewashko said if they had all the information, her father might have made a different decision.
“My dad would have definetly not wanted us to have to go through this,” Ewashko said.
However, she hopes their story educates other potential whole body donors.
“He contributed more than he knows, for sure. This is huge.”
With files from Carmen Leibel