List of 4 Ways to Get a Free Cremation in Oregon


Lately, it seems like everything is becoming more expensive. Prices are rising on everything from groceries to clothing to real estate. 

People living in Oregon may be significantly affected by economic circumstances. The cost of living in Oregon is one of the highest in the country. Only Hawaii, Washington DC, New York, California, and Massachusetts are more expensive.

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But as prices are rising in the United States, so is the poverty rate, which poses many challenges. Many people struggle to put food on the table or find safe and affordable housing. And if a loved one dies, many people find that they cannot afford a funeral. 

If you’re living in Oregon, there are charities that can help with funeral costs. There are even services that can provide free cremation under certain circumstances. We’ll explore those here, along with some tips on reducing cremation costs.

Places or Programs That Offer Free Cremation in Oregon

Human tissue is integral to the research and development of certain medications and medical devices, and whole-body donation is a significant source. In Oregon, several organizations provide free cremation in exchange for whole-body donations. Whole-body donation is also colloquially known as donating your body to science. 

In death, your body can be used to develop medical advancements that will help people achieve a better quality of life. It’s a deeply meaningful gift. With a whole-body donation, you can choose from several reputable anatomical donation programs striving to make medical improvements. Here is our list of the best whole-body donation programs in Oregon.

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1. Oregon Health & Science University

Medical students need to have practical hands-on experience with the human body long before working with patients. A whole-body donation is a crucial tool in educating generations of medical professionals by providing foundational education in anatomy. 

The Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) Body Donation Program relies on whole-body donations to provide new doctors, practicing residents, and physicians educational opportunities. Beyond learning how to diagnose certain conditions, whole-body donation enables medical professionals to practice new surgical techniques.

Once a body is donated to the OHSU, it is embalmed or frozen for preservation purposes. The body often stays in the possession of OHSU or an affiliated academic institution for as many as two years. Once the studies have been completed, the cremains are returned to the family of the donor.   

2. Educational Body Donation

The Educational Body Donation program has a lot of similarities to the OHSU program discussed above. The principal difference is that the Educational Body Donation program isn’t affiliated with a single educational institution. Instead, they facilitate body donation to several different educational schools and facilities. They provide a lot of transparency about their process: specifically, they ensure that donated bodies are used only for educational purposes and not research purposes. 

3. MedCure

The MedCure body donation program is accredited by the American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB). AATB-accreditation is always a great sign that you are entrusting a donation to an ethical organization. MedCure works with educational facilities and researchers and can coordinate your donation to ensure it does the most good. 

MedCure has some advantages over other whole-body donation programs. First and foremost is their turnaround time. Cremated remains are generally returned to the next-of-kin 8 to 12 weeks after donation. This quick return helps some families get closure a little more easily. They also make all transportation arrangements and cover the costs. Finally, they handle the process of acquiring the death certificate, which is issued to the family within 4 to 6 weeks. 

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4. BioGift Anatomical 

The Portland, Oregon, based BioGift Anatomical is a whole-body donation program facilitating medical education and research. Donated bodies may end up as a tool to prepare surgeons for operating on living patients. Tissue harvested is also used to advance research for many diseases and conditions.  

Like MedCure, BioGift Anatomical handles all the expenses and logistics associated with whole-body donation. They organize transportation, file the certificate, and provide the next-of-kin with two copies of the death certificate at no cost. Any remains are cremated and returned to the families within 8 to 12 weeks. 

Tips for Saving Money on Cremation in Oregon

Many people opt for cremation over a traditional burial because it is a lower-cost alternative. But cremation can still get expensive. Even if your loved one isn’t eligible for a free cremation from one of the aforementioned programs, there are still many ways you can cut costs while honoring the deceased. Here are some of our favorite tips.

Don’t be afraid to shop around

Before making a big purchase, you likely take the time to shop around and compare prices. The same principle should apply when you’re planning a funeral. The problem is many people settle for the first funeral home they reach out to because they are grieving and overwhelmed. 

Here are some things to consider before heading to a funeral home in person:

  • Do your research.
  • Read reviews for local funeral homes to determine what people have to say about both cost and quality.
  • Make a list of the ones that look the most promising and call them instead of going in.
  • Let them know that you’d like a brief overview of their cremation services and ask them for an approximate price range. You can disclose upfront that you have a tight budget and ask specifically about any lower-cost packages they might offer. 

Funeral directors know the industry very well and may have suggestions for you to reduce costs. They may have insight into local programs or resources. They are often happy to share this information and even facilitate the process, so be candid about your needs.

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Don’t fall for the upsell

The funeral industry is fairly well-regulated. In 1984, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) established the Funeral Rule. It sets forward several essential rules that funeral providers must follow. Funeral providers must supply consumers with accurate, itemized prices lists of any offered funeral goods or services. They are also prohibited from certain practices, including:

  • Charging a fee for embalming without receiving permission ahead of time.
  • Providing false or misleading information about cemetery, crematory, or legal requirements.
  • Requiring clients to purchase specific funeral goods or services on a conditional basis.
  • Engaging in any other unfair or deceptive manner.

Regulations like these help ensure that funeral homes are engaging in ethical practices. While ethics are important in any industry, they are of paramount importance here. People who are planning funerals are often emotional and out of sorts. They also usually have a short timeline to pull everything together. It would be very easy for unscrupulous people to take advantage of someone under these circumstances.

When you talk with a funeral home about cremation options, pay attention to the way they treat you. It’s not unheard of for unethical individuals to try and persuade families to increase their budget by strongly hinting that spending more money is the best way to honor the deceased.

If you encounter manipulation like this, don’t give into it. If you spend $100 on a cremation urn instead of $2,000, it doesn’t mean that you didn’t value your loved one enough.  

Explore direct cremation

The National Funeral Directors Association has issued a list of the average funeral costs by state in 2021. These costs refer to what is known as a standard cremation. In Oregon, the median price of an adult funeral with viewing and cremation was $6,028. 

Interestingly, the cremation process makes up a small portion of this cost. The expenses are primarily associated with the viewing. If you opt to hold a viewing, the body must be embalmed and prepared for viewing prior to cremation. 

With direct cremation, viewing is taken out of the equation. The body is cremated immediately after death, so it is unnecessary to preserve it. In Oregon, many funeral homes offer direct cremation services for as low as $700. In place of the viewing, families can hold a simple and low-key memorial service.

Shop online for cremation urns

When you go through a funeral home to organize a cremation, they will have an array of cremation urns for you to choose from at a variety of price points. But because the funeral home gets these urns from manufacturers, some markup covers costs and makes the process more profitable. Y

ou can get online and buy cremation urns directly from the manufacturers for a much lower price. Simply provide the vessel to the funeral home and tell them it is your preferred urn.

Free and Low-Cost Cremation in Oregon

The Taj Mahal is one of the most famous buildings in the world, but many people don’t realize it’s a mausoleum. This lavish building was commissioned by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in honor of his most beloved wife. The cost of building this structure would be equivalent to USD 1 billion in today’s currency. 

If we all had the means, we would celebrate our loved ones with similar grand gestures. Unfortunately, many people struggle to pay for even a basic funeral. If you’re struggling with the cost of cremation in Oregon, these free and low-cost alternatives can help bring it within your reach.

  1. “NFDA News Releases.”, National Funeral Directors Association, 4 November 2021,

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