Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Anatomical Body Donation

Body Donation Procedures

  1. What is the procedure for donating a body for anatomical study?
    Anyone eighteen years of age or older who is of sound mind may donate their body for study by completing the UofL forms and returning the originals to the willed body program.  There are reasons we cannot accept a body at time of death which are listed under the question regarding refusal to accept a body below.
  2. Are any costs involved in the donation of one's body?
    Death occurs within Jefferson County, KY or Floyd and Clark Counties in IN:
    There is typically no expense to the family within the above counties.  The University of Louisville covers the following services at no expense to the donor or family:  transportation of the body from site of death, embalming procedures at UofL and care of the body, cremation, and interment at UofL burial site or return of ashes (pick-up at UofL only).
    Death occurs outside Jefferson County, KY or Floyd and Clark Counties in IN:
    The University of Louisville covers the following services at no expense to the donor or family: transportation of the body within Jefferson County, KY, embalming procedures at UofL and care of the body, cremation, and interment at UofL burial site or return of ashes (pick-up at UofL only). We do arrange for transport of the body by Nunnelley Funeral Home for central KY and southern IN, however we do not cover the cost of transportation from the site of death to Jefferson County, KY. The next-of-kin is responsible for and will be sent an invoice for the transportation costs (based on mileage) from the site of death to Jefferson County, KY. If you feel you may live outside the area that we would arrange for transport, please call our office to discuss possible arrangements.

    If the next-of-kin wish the ashes to be returned by mail, there will be a $50.00 fee for this service.

    The willed body program accepts any donations to assist in covering the fees associated with preparation, care, and cremation of our donors. If you wish to do so, please send a check made out to the body bequeathal program, dept. of anatomical sciences and send it to the address listed above.
  3. If I donate my body to the program, will I need the services of a funeral home for any reason?
    It is not necessary to use a funeral home when donating a body. Transportation of the body will be performed by Nunnelley Funeral Home and the embalming process and death-related paperwork will be done at University of Louisville. In some cases (i.e. death in the home outside of the immediate area of Louisville, KY), the family members may wish to have an additional funeral home involved for the transportation of the body from the home to a local funeral home prior to transport by Nunnelley Funeral Home. The family is responsible for any additional costs in these situations.
  4. Will it be possible to have a funeral for the deceased?
    Unfortunately, it is not possible to hold a viewing or conduct a funeral for the donor due to the time constraints and preparation of the body at UofL. However, most families hold a memorial service for loved ones shortly after the donation. Every spring, the University of Louisville holds a Convocation of Thanks organized by the students to honor the donors and their families which is open to all family members of our donors.
  5. Why do you need to know my social security number and other information on the vital statistics page?
    The information located on the vital statistics page is used to complete the death certificate at the time of death. If any of that information is missing, incorrect, or out-of-date, it will result in delays or wrong information on the death certificate. It is the donor’s responsibility to keep us informed of any change in name, address, or next-of-kin so that we can keep your file current.
  6. Who can sign as a witness on the paperwork?
    Anyone can sign the paperwork as a witness; it does not need to be next-of-kin.
  7. Who should I put as a next-of-kin on the paperwork?
    We recommend that you choose someone that will not likely precede you in death and that will remain someone who will maintain concern over the final disposition of your body.
  8. Does the paperwork need to be notarized?
    The paperwork does not need to be notarized.
  9. How do I know I have been accepted into the body bequeathal program?
    After we have received your completed paperwork, we will send you an acceptance letter and a wallet card for you to carry. The wallet card does not guarantee your wishes to be carried out at the time of death; if your next-of-kin or care facility/hospital does not know of your wishes to be a body donor, those wishes may not be carried out at the time of death. We suggest you give copies of your paperwork to next-of-kin and/or care facility/hospital.
  10. What happens if the donor moves to another state?
    The donor should contact a medical school in that state to arrange for donation. However, if the donor specifically wishes to donate University of Louisville, all additional costs and arrangements for transport must be borne by the donor's estate or next-of-kin. Also expect delays with the filing of the death certificate if a donor dies in another state.
  11. What if I change my mind? May I withdraw my decision to donate?
    Yes, by notifying this office in writing.

Procedures at Time of Death

  1. Does the Body Bequeathal Program ever refuse to accept a body?
    Body donors MUST be pre-registered with our program prior to death to assure acceptance at time of death. The family should be made aware that if the donor’s death is under the following circumstances that we will be unable to accept the body at time of death: (1) infectious disease such as HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis, MRSA, flesh-eating disease, West Nile virus, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (2) extreme obesity (3) has suffered a violent death (4) victim of suicide or homicide (5) an autopsy has occurred (6) vital organs removed for transplantation purposes. Other rare circumstances may also result in the inability to accept the body at the time of death.
    We suggest that the donor and next-of-kin develop alternative plans in the event we are unable to accept the body at the time of death.
    All other requests (not pre-registered) for donation are considered on a case-by-case basis. We reserve the right to refuse anyone who is not pre-registered.
  2. Will you accept a body from which other donations have been given?
    We cannot accept bodies from which other vital organs (brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, liver) are removed. Body donors to the University of Louisville can donate their corneas/eyes. Please contact KODA at 1-800-525-3456 for further information regarding organ donation.
  3. What happens to the body after the Willed Body Program at the University of Louisville receives it?
    The body is prepared either for short-term study of 1-6 months or for long-term study of approximately 12 – 24 months. Students who are preparing to enter the health professions will study bodies in a gross anatomy laboratory. UofL also has another facility that allows for residents and physicians to practice surgical procedures, develop new techniques and devices, and perform research.
  4. May the donor request a program in which he/she wishes to be studied?
    We are unable to accept a donor for a specific project. Our policy is to use the donors as needed.
  5. Will the body be studied at the University of Louisville?
    The majority of our donors are used for studies at the University of Louisville. Occasionally we receive a request from health professionals outside UofL. If the request is approved, we supply a body with the following assurances that: 1) the body will be kept in an appropriate and secured area; 2) the study is to be completed within a reasonable time frame; 3) that a human body is a mandatory requirement of the study; and 4) following completion of the study, the body must be returned to UofL for cremation and disposition of ashes.
  6. Who files for social security death benefits?
    A family member, power of attorney, or executor is responsible for handling the filing for social security death benefits. We will complete the SSA-721 and fax it.
  7. Who files for a death certificate? How long does it take to receive a death certificate?
    Steve Anderson or Troy Nukes, as licensed funeral directors, will begin the process of filing a death certificate by filling out our portion of the death certificate. The death certificate is then sent to the doctor listed on the provisional death report in order for them to complete their portion. We then verify that all the information is correct and send it to the office of vital statistics of the appropriate state. The state of Indiana is now online and this process takes ~10 days. As of January 2015, the state of Kentucky is providing electronic registration, but this is dependent on the medical doctor registering for the online system.  If the doctor is not registered for the electronic system, the process for a death certificate will be handled via postal mail and can take up to 4-6 weeks.  The next of kin will be sent paperwork at the time of death explaining how to order certified copies of the death certificate.
  8. How is the body disposed of after studies are completed?
    Following anatomical study, the body must be cremated. The ashes (cremains) can be interred at the University burial site OR ashes can be returned to the next-of-kin after death; the donor indicates their wishes for their ashes by completing the ashes disposition form and mailing it back to our office.
    If our paperwork is signed to return ashes to the next-of-kin, we will send a letter to the next-of-kin when the ashes are ready to be picked up. The next-of-kin listed on the paperwork will need to arrange a time with the bequeathal office to pick up the cremains. If we are unable to contact next-of-kin or we do not hear back from next-of-kin within 1 year, the ashes will be interred at the University burial grounds as their final resting place.
    If the ashes are to be interred at the UofL burial site, there will be no contact with the next-of-kin when the ashes are ready. The interment sites at the University burial site are not individually marked; there is one single granite stone acknowledging the gifts of those who have donated for medical education and research.
  9. Will it be possible for my family to receive a report of medical findings or given details of the study the body was involved in?
    We do not provide any reports concerning pathologic findings, cause of death or details of the specific studies that are conducted.
  10. I travel a great deal, what if I should die outside the immediate area?
    We recommend that the body be offered to the nearest medical school. However, if the donor has specifically requested to be returned to Louisville, all additional costs and arrangements must be borne by the donor's estate or next-of-kin. Should a donor unexpectedly die out of state, an autopsy may be required depending upon the laws of that state, thus making the body unacceptable for study. Also expect delays with the filing of the death certificate if a donor dies out of state.
  11. What can family members leave at the UofL burial/memorial site?
    Family members are invited to leave flowers, wreaths, and other temporary items at the memorial site. Permanent markers (such as plaques or benches) are not permitted. The site is maintained on a regular basis and items will be removed.