These Frequently Asked Questions and answers are provided by the staff Funeral Directors of the Gift of Body Donor Program. If you have questions not covered here or need additional information on any question and answer provided in the FAQ, please contact The Gift of Body Donor Program at 314-362-3597, 314-362-3599 or 1-855-502-7894 (toll free).
What do I need to do to become a donor?
You must complete the Washington University Gift of Body Donor Form and submit it to the Body Donor Program office. This form must be on file with the University prior to the death of a potential donor.
Will I receive something to carry in my wallet that designates me as a body donor?
Yes. When you receive the letter confirming your registration in the program, you also will receive a card stating you are a Washington University body donor participant.
When I register for the Gift of Body Donor Program, do I automatically qualify to become a donor at the time of my death?
No. Not all registered donors will be acceptable donors at the time of their death. Washington University reserves the right to refuse a body after death. Reasons for such refusal include, but may not be limited to:
- an autopsy was performed
- a body was embalmed
- organs were removed for donation or transplantation (only eyes and brain may be removed after your death)
- communicable disease or infection (i.e. HIV-AIDS, Hepatitis B & C, MRSA)
- trauma to the body
- recent invasive surgery
- suicide and/or
- extreme obesity.
If any of these conditions exist at time of death, your funeral director can offer you an alternative method of final disposition. You are advised to have an alternate plan in place in the event your body cannot be accepted. In this case, please notify Washington University School of Medicine when a registered donor is not coming to the program so that we may remove active donor documents from our system.
May I request that my donation be used for research of specific illness or disease?
No. Our donor bodies are used to teach anatomy in all its various forms to our students, residents and doctors. We cannot accept requests for specific uses.
What if I change my mind? May I rescind my donation?
Yes. The Body Donation Form is not a contract. You may submit a letter of cancellation at any time to the Body Donor Program. Please include your birth date and the address provided on the form when you originally completed your donor document. This will allow us to verify your enrollment. Also include your current address so we may send you a letter confirming cancellation.
Are there age limits for this program?
You must be at least 18 to register to become a donor in the Washington University Body Donor Program. There is not an upper age limit for registration in the program.
Will my family receive a medical report after the teaching activities are finished?
No. Donors are used to teach anatomy to students in our medical education programs. We do not make determination of cause of death or diagnosis of disease and/or illness.
May I donate my organs, too?
The entire body must be donated to the program. The only tissues that can be removed prior to a donors’ delivery to the Gift of Body Donor Program are the eyes and brain. Any donation involving organs or tissues other than the eyes or brain eliminates the possibility of the donor becoming a teaching specimen. Donor bodies with organs removed (other than the eyes and brain) will not be accepted.
Does the program accept donations from outside the immediate St. Louis metro area or from out-of-state?
Yes. As with all donations, the family or next-of-kin must coordinate with a local funeral establishment for the delivery of the donor’s body to Washington University. Donors from outside the St. Louis metro area may have difficulty with the economical and legal aspects of donation. If you are not in the state of Missouri at the time of death, different laws may apply with regard to transport, paperwork and permits. In these instances, it is best to contact the Gift of Body Donor Program funeral directors for additional information prior to requesting registration in the program.
Should the donation paperwork be filed with my will?
No. Information regarding your desire to become a donor should be shared with your family at the time you register. The reading of a will usually happens after final disposition of remains has occurred. We suggest you keep copies of your body donation paperwork in a safe place at your primary residence. We recommend against placing your donor documents in a safe deposit box. It is best to copy and share this information with those who will make your final arrangements.
Can I fax or email my forms?
Yes. However, we still require that the original completed donor documents be mailed to our office. Once we receive the original documents we will proceed with the donor registration process. However, if you wish to provide this information prior to mailing the original documents, you may scan and email (email@example.com) or fax (314.747.8886) the form to our office.
Do I have to have the donation forms notarized?
No. The donation form does not need to be notarized. However, when you sign the form, your signing must be witnessed and signed by two (2) witnesses. Witnesses may be anyone 18 years of age or older (family, friends, colleagues, neighbors or anyone you choose).
Do I need to tell my family I want to donate my body?
We strongly recommend you discuss your wishes with your family. If you do not tell them, they may not know of your desire to become a body donor. If they do not know, they may handle your final disposition in a manner different from what you want.
What costs are associated with body donation?
Washington University does not charge a fee in connection with this donation. However, the funeral establishment will bill for their services. The funeral director will remove your body from the place of death, finalize the death certificate details, and transport your body to Washington University.
How is my body transported to the Gift of Body Donor Program?
You or your survivors must make transport arrangements with a licensed funeral establishment.
How much does it cost to transport a donor body?
Cost will differ by company. By law, all consumers may inquire about funeral establishment pricing. All funeral establishments must be forthcoming with price information when a phone inquiry is made. We suggest calling the place(s) you are interested in using for their services.
What should the family do when the death of a donor has occurred?
The next of kin or responsible party should call the funeral establishment of choice to arrange for the transfer of the deceased to Washington University School of Medicine.
How do I get certified copies of the death certificate?
It is the responsibility of the funeral director to generate, complete, and file the death certificate. At the time of filing, the funeral director will order the quantity of certified copies of the death certificate requested by the next of kin.
May I register a loved one who is not able to complete the form?
Only someone with a Durable Power of Attorney, court-appointed guardianship, or other legal representation, may act on behalf of another. A complete copy of such legal documentation must accompany the Gift of Body Donor Form. It is recommended that the next of kin or responsible party contact Dan or Ryan to discuss this type of registration.
What does the University do with the donor body?
We use our donor bodies to teach anatomy in all its various forms to our students, residents and doctors. Donors are used in the classroom and in surgical settings.
What is done with the donor body when teaching has been completed?
All donor tissues are cremated, and the cremated remains are scattered at Washington University’s Tyson Research Center near Eureka, Missouri.
Is there an area at Tyson where loved ones can visit?
Yes. We have established a Memorial Grove at Tyson for reflection and connection. Please contact The Gift of Body Donor Program for information regarding Memorial Grove.
Is there a memorial service for the donors?
Students who benefit from donations to the School of Medicine host an annual Donor Appreciation Remembrance service where they recognize donors and donor families. Please see the Donor Ceremony page or call (314) 362-3597 for further information.
Are you still accepting body donations?
Yes. The need is great and only will increase due to the demand for more doctors, nurses, and other healthcare practitioners.
May I register a loved one who has passed away and was not previously registered to the Gift of Body Donor Program?
This type of donation may or may not be possible. It is imperative that the next of kin or responsible party contact Dan or Ryan to discuss the requirements for this type of donation.
Can we contact the Donor Program outside of regular business hours?
Our program is available after hours, weekends and holidays. It is suggested that you email the program with questions or concerns. We are able to reply via email or phone call if you provide a call back number. The email inbox is checked with some regularity during off hours. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Is it possible to make monetary donations in the memory of a Donor?
We would be honored to receive such a gift. We are grateful for your interest in medical education.
Donations may be made to:
Body Donor Program
Office of Education
Washington University School of Medicine
660 South Euclid Avenue, MSC 8073-29-12400
St. Louis, MO 63110