In accordance with his wishes, Christopher Hitchens’ body was donated to medical research following his death less than two weeks ago; many of his followers have applauded his decision.
“That is very Hitchens style,” wrote one commenter on Daily Hitchens, which first announced the news of his donation through an email from his literary agent Steve Wasserman.
The agent also revealed that memorial services would be held sometime next year for the God is Not Great author.
“Body donation makes absolute sense,” 5ecular4umanist penned. “Why waste a body in burial or cremation when it can be used to teach medical students or for scientific study for the benefit of others? Even in death we can do good.”
“There’s no better way to ‘live on’ than helping people learn and live even after your passing,” responded Hemant Mehta, chair of Foundation Beyond Belief, on his Friendly Atheist blog.
“Please consider donating your body (and organs) after you die,” Mehta added, urging others to do the same.
In his life and death, Hitchens continually advocated the advance of science. When he was diagnosed with stage IV esophageal cancer in 2010, he agreed to undergo a new experimental treatment partly developed by evangelical Christian scientist Francis Collins, the former director of the National Human Genome Research Project.
The treatment was designed to attack the primary site of his tumor, targeting damaged DNA discovered after mapping out his entire human genome.
“I’m an experiment,” Hitchens previously told the U.K. Telegraph Magazine. If the treatment worked, it wouldn’t just be “good news” for Hitchens, it would be “very exciting in the general treatment of cancer,” he shared.
But he was warned to have no expectations as his cancer was well advanced, having already spread to regional lymph nodes.
Though scientists did in fact find a drug for the genetic mutation discovered in his tumor, the treatment did not work as hoped.
After trying numerous other treatments, including radiation therapy, Hitchens passed away on Dec. 11, from pneumonia, a complication of esophageal cancer.
Throughout his illness, some believed that the staunch atheist would have a “deathbed conversion,” but the 62-year-old columnist stated that he would not do such a “pathetic thing” while lucid.
Regardless, many Christians have hoped in the possibility of his conversion before his passing.
“In the last year of his life, Hitchens wrote some searching essays about his cancer and impending death,” Denny Burk, associate professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, said on his website. “He seemed to stand ever resolute in his atheism and insist that the hour of his demise must be the proving ground of his unbelief.”
“I would like to think that perhaps his skepticism didn’t win out in the end,” Burk expressed. “I would like to think that the gospel he heard from [Pastor Doug] Wilson and others might have broken through just in time as it did for the thief on the cross. Stranger things have happened, and the Lord’s arm indeed is not too short to save even in such a moment. Nevertheless, we may never have any evidence this side of glory that the light finally broke through to Hitchens.”
“Christopher knew that faithful Christians believe that it is appointed to man once to die, and after that the Judgment,” Wilson, who co-created Hitchens’ book Is Christianity Good for the World? penned on Christianity Today.
“He knew that we believe what Jesus taught about the reality of damnation. He also knew that we believe – for I told him – that in this life, the door of repentance is always open.”
“We have no indication that Christopher ever called on the Lord before he died, and if he did not, then Scriptures plainly teach that he is lost forever. But we do have every indication that Christ died for sinners, men and women just like Christopher. We know that the Lord has more than once hired workers for his vineyard when the sun was almost down.”