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 question #12. Additionally, the Willed Body Program reserves the right to reject the gift for any reason.

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).

We are unable to accept any new registered donors into the Program from outside Jefferson County, KY and Floyd and Clark Counties, IN at this time.

If the next-of-kin wish the ashes to be returned by mail, there will be a $100.00 fee for this service.

3.  If I donate my body to the Program, will I need the services of a funeral home for any reason?
All services from the death notification call, transportation, embalming, and cremation is arranged and/or performed by the staff of the Willed Body Program.

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 with the body present due to the time constraints and preparation of the body at the Willed Body Program. 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 If any of that information is missing, incorrect, or out-of-date, it will result in delays or wrong information on the death certificate.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?
A witness must be dis-interested, which means (1) over 18 years old, and (2) someone other than the spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandchild, grandparent or guardian of the donor.

7.  Who should I put as a next-of-kin (informant) 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 must be notarized. 

9.  How do I know I have been accepted into the Willed Body Program?
After we have received your completed paperwork, we will send you an acceptance letter and a wallet card for you to carry. Acceptance into the Program is a statement of wish or intent, it does not guarantee your body will be entered into the Program at time of death (please see question #12). The wallet card as well 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 an anatomical 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. The Program can not share paperwork with anyone unless the donor expressly directs us to do so.

10.  What happens if I move to another state or country?
You should contact a medical school in that state or country to arrange for donation in the local area. We are unable to accept the body if death occurs outside of the acceptance area.  

11.  What if I change my mind? May I withdraw my decision to donate?
Yes, by notifying the Program in a writing. The letter should be notarized and signed by two dis-interested witnesses.

Procedures at Time of Death

12.  Does the Willed Body Program ever refuse to accept a body?
Body donors MUST be pre-registered with our Program prior to death. Next-of-kin 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, but not limited to: COVID-19, HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis, MRSA, flesh-eating disease, West Nile virus, Clostridium difficile, Acinetobacter baumannii, flesh-eating disease, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
(2) extreme obesity, extreme emaciation, or body contractures
(3) has suffered a violent death, open wounds including recent surgeries, or victim of suicide or homicide; autopsy is required
(4) vital organs removed for transplantation purposes (except the eyes)
(5) time between death and notification of death to the Program is prolonged or unknown
(6) ascites, edema, or sepsis (septicemia)
(7) capacity of the Program

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, and the Willed Body Program reserves the right to reject a gift for any reason.

13.  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.

14.  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. UofL also works with other approved institutions in the community to provide healthcare education and innovation.

15.  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 utilize the donors as needed.

16.  Will the body be studied at the University of Louisville?
The majority of our donors are utilized for studies at the University of Louisville. Occasionally we receive a request from health professionals outside UofL. If the request is approved by committee, 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.

17.  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.

18.  Who files for a death certificate?  How long does it take to receive a death certificate?
Troy Nukes or Rebecca Barker, 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 process typically takes approximately two weeks for a finalized death certificate; delays can occur if there is missing or incorrect information or delays with the doctor completing their portion of the death certificate. The primary next of kin (informant) will be sent paperwork at the time of death explaining how to order certified copies of the death certificate.

19.  Why do the studies occur for as long as 24 months?
Before a donor's remains can be utilized to educate health care practitioners, the donor's remains need to be anatomically prepared. The anatomical preparation process currently recommended requires arterial preservation. After arterial preservation, the donor's body is isolated for a period of time to better eliminate the possibility of transmitting harmful microorganisms to students, staff, or researchers.

After isolation, the donor's body is used for study in semester or yearlong courses.  The course assigned depends on the time of year.

20.  How is the body handled 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 as part of the application 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 primary 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 Willed Body Program 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. Burial at the UofL site shall be final.

21.  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.

22.  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.

23.  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.