Families in Illinois now have extra reason to buy burial insurance: their loved one’s remains could be donated to science if they can’t pay.

A steep decline in the number of bodies donated to science has caused Cook County, Ill., to dust off an old law requiring unclaimed bodies be turned over for medical research. Under a deal struck between the county and the Anatomical Gift Association (AGA), cadavers that haven’t been claimed after two weeks will be given to the AGA. However, families then have a 60-day grace period to object to the AGA donation. Those who can’t pay but don’t want to donate the body can have it sent back to the morgue.

Economic decline has made it harder for families to afford funerals, and the Illinois General Assembly recently cut the $1,103 stipend it once paid funeral homes to accept remains from families without burial funds. Funeral home owners are lobbying the assembly to restore the stipend as well as increasing their efforts to inform families about the importance of burial insurance.

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