Donating your Body to Science

A donated body can be used for medical purposes through either organ and tissue donation or whole body donation programs. Organ and tissue donation is more common, and entails donation of one or more organs or other tissues to be used for transplant or study. You can sign up to become an organ donor online or when renewing your drivers license. Even if your license or organ donor card specify your desire to be an organ donor it is important to notify loved ones of your decision to ensure your wishes are carried out.

Whole body donation entails donation of your entire body to be used for medical or emergency response training.

If you’re considering full body donation, there are two main options for donation:

1. Full body donation to a tissue bank.

Visit the American Association of Tissue Banks website to search for accredited tissue banks in your state. Donating to an accredited bank ensures that certain ethical and medical guidelines will be followed related to treatment of donated tissue. You can also choose to donate only specific tissue (e.g. the heart or kidney) to one of these banks.

2. Donation to a local medical school or university.

The majority of donated bodies go to medical schools to help students learn human anatomy and surgical procedures. You can pre-register your donation with most major universities.

The process for either type of donation typically includes filling out consent forms, arranging for notification (of the school or tissue bank) after your death, and filing the paperwork with your Will.

Although you may also include body and/or tissue donation wishes in your Will, it is important to notify loved ones of this decision. Time is a critical consideration, especially for live tissue donation, and your Will may not be read until the acceptable donation period has passed. Ultimately, your survivors are responsible for initiating and overseeing the donation process after your death.

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