LAS VEGAS -- The tough economy is changing how many people live. It is also changing how more and more people are put to rest after death.
A growing number of people are donating their remains to science to avoid the hefty price of funeral and burial services.
Courtney Tiberti's Great Aunt Maria was an army nurse who passed away in her 80's. Instead of being buried, her aunt's body was donated to the University of Nevada Reno.
"Aunt Maria was an old, stubborn Italian woman and you did not mess with her. That is what she wanted. She had no spouse and no children so it was her decision and everyone respected it," Tiberti said.
If a person qualifies for anatomical donations, as it is technically called, it is free. Companies like Medcure Incorporated use cadavers to train emergency responders. Medcure says it has seen an increased interest in anatomical donations.
"There are two types of people, I want to give back to humanity and it is completely altruistic and it is not a money driven decision. Then there is the decision where people may not have options," Valere Beck with Medcure said.
Beck says out of every 10 people who learn about the anatomical donation option, half ask for more information, but only half of those actually go through with the donation.
Once bodies are used for medical research they are eventually returned to family members to cremate. Family members don't know when that will be. It could be months, maybe even years, before their loved one's body is returned.
Funeral directors say, considering all the details, it is important to talk with loved ones about their wishes now. They say it is much more difficult to make a decision when people are overwhelmed with emotion soon after a loved one passes.