body donation

Why should I consider donating my body to science?

The unique and priceless gift of the human body provides the knowledge that is the foundation of medical education and research. Donor bodies are used to teach medical students and other health professionals the relationship between the systems and the structure of the body. They are also used to help researchers design new medical devices such as artificial hips or knees; to develop novel surgical techniques such as breast reconstruction or arthroscopic knee and shoulder surgery; or to pioneer new MRI techniques. A practical aspect is the financial savings to families.

As you consider the option of donating your body to science, know that the need is great, and your gift will be valued and honored.

How can I leave my body to medical science?

Upon request, forms authorizing the donation of the body to science will be mailed to you with a return envelope. The completion of these forms does not require the services of a lawyer or a notary. After the returned documents have been reviewed you will be sent a letter and a donor identification card.

Does age, disease, or amputation make the donation unacceptable?

There is no upper age limit for whole body donation, nor does amputation preclude acceptance. Medical conditions that would prevent acceptance as a donor include Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, hepatitis and HIV. Extensive trauma to the body at the time of death, advanced decomposition, or extreme obesity would also make the remains unsuitable for anatomical study.

What about autopsies?

Information learned from autopsies is sometimes of importance to the donor’s physician or family and, in some instances, autopsy is required by law. Although the value for anatomical study of an autopsied body is limited, we will make every effort to accept autopsied bodies of registered donors, subject to meeting the other criteria of program acceptability.

Who may serve as a witness to my donation?

Anyone 21 years or older, preferably someone expected to be a survivor, may act as a witness. Two witness signatures are required on our donation forms.

What expenses are involved upon the death of a donor?

There are no expenses.

Should the donor inform someone of their bequest?

Discuss your plans with those close to you so that your wishes may be clearly understood. It is also advisable for a donor to notify his or her physician and attorney of the arrangements.

What is the final disposition following the study?

After the studies are completed -generally a period of one to three years -the remains are cremated and scattered at sea. Cremated remains are not returned for private disposition, and no notification of final disposition will be sent to the family.

Can I donate someone else’s body such as my spouse or parents?

The nearest living next of kin or a person with durable power of attorney for healthcare can make the donation.

What if the death occurs in another state?

A medical school in the state where the death occurred may be contacted for donation.

Will any payment be received for the body?

No payment may be made in connection with body donation. This policy is in accordance with State laws, and all institutions accepting human remains must comply.

If a bequest is made, and the donor has a change of mind later, can the gift be rescinded?

Yes, if the request is made in writing by the donor

What is the procedure upon the death of the donor?

The next of kin or executor should notify the Donation Program by calling (858) 534-4536. This number is answered 24 hours a day.

Is a memorial service conducted?

Yes. Each year the medical students plan an annual memorial service to honor the donors. Family and friends of donors are encouraged to attend.

For more information about the UC San Diego Body Donation program click here.