Procedure for Donating to the Anatomical Gifts Program


  1. An individual at least 18 years of age and of sound mind may make a donation.
  2. The donation is made by simply filling out the forms provided by us, having them properly witnessed by two other persons, and returning one copy to us for our records.
  3. We will then send you a card that should be carried with you at all times.
  4. Inform a member of your family or close friend (generally whoever will be the executor of your estate) of your intention in this matter so that someone can ensure that your wishes are carried out after your death.


Why should I donate my body to USA's Anatomical Gifts Program?
The donation is a generous and unselfish act for those who wish to be useful to the living after death. The donor will help those in the medical field further their learning and research.

Will I be paid by USA for my body?
No. USA does not buy bodies nor do other medical schools in the U.S. However, donation will relieve the family of many of the expenses involved with a traditional funeral.

What happens after the body goes to the Anatomical Gifts Program?
The body is retained for approximately 1-1/2 to 2 years. After studies are completed, the body will be cremated and the ashes interred by the University in Pine Crest West Cemetery. You may request to have your ashes returned to your family by checking the appropriate box on the donation form. The ashes will be returned by priority express return receipt mail to the person who is designated on the donation form to receive them. Costs incurred after the body has come to the Anatomical Gifts Program are paid by the Anatomical Gifts Program. The only exceptions are certified copies of the death certificate and burial costs after the ashes have been returned to the family.

Is this the same as an autopsy?
No. An autopsy determines the cause of death in a short period of time. Anatomical dissection requires detailed examination of the entire body, with emphasis on normal structure. No reports are furnished to the donor's family.

Will my body be treated with respect?
Yes. Students are aware that the body from which they learn is a generous donation. No disrespect is permitted. All use of the body is closely supervised, and the identity of the body is known only to a few faculty and staff members. Bodies are not displayed to the public.

Does my religion approve of body donation?
Most religions approve, but if you are unsure consult your minister, pastor, rabbi, or priest. 

Are bodies ever rejected for donation?
Yes. We are unable to accept bodies of individuals who had an infectious disease (HIV, AIDS, TB, Hepatitis, MRSA, etc.), suicide or autopsy.

Can my family still have a funeral if I wish to donate my body to the Anatomical Gifts Program?
Yes, however, if the body is to be present at the service, it must be conducted within 24 hours after the time of death. You should discuss this with the funeral director of your choice.

Do I have to make prearrangements with a funeral home, ambulance service, or transport service?
We recommend the donor discuss his or her intended dedication with a local funeral director, ambulance service, or transport service so that his or her wishes are properly carried out after death.

If the donor is transported to a funeral home, will the Anatomical Gifts Program pick up the cost of the ambulance and funeral home?
No. The Anatomical Gifts Program, although created by state law, receives no financial support from the State and has no funds to cover the cost of any procedures done by funeral homes or transportation to the College of Medicine. Therefore, the donor should make arrangements from his or her estate, or under the provision of the Federal Social Security Act, for coverage of this cost.

How much will the funeral home, ambulance service, or transport service charge?
Costs of different funeral homes, ambulance services, and transport services vary depending on the amount of services rendered. 

What happens if the donor moves to another state?
We suggest that you contact the local agency in your new state to make similar arrangements so as to comply with the local laws. We can assist you in finding another program if you contact our office.

What death benefits may be available?
There are several government and private benefits that may be applied directly for funeral and burial costs. Social Security may pay for some funeral costs. Veteran's Administration benefits may also provide some funds for funerals, for cemetery plots, a U.S. Flag, and a grave marker, if needed. State Compensation provides burial expenses and survivors benefits for employment-related deaths. Other sources to check are: insurance policies, credit or trade unions, fraternal or professional organizations, railroad retirement benefits, pension funds and medical benefits.

May friends and/or relatives make financial contributions to the Anatomical Gifts Program?
Yes. Gifts will be acknowledged to the donor and to your family. Funds from such gifts will be used only for medical education and research.

What happens if death should occur at a great distance, or if USA is unable to use the body?
If death occurs a long distance away from the University, we recommend the executor of the estate donate the body to another medical school that is closer. We can provide the executor with information on how to contact other programs. However, many families still desire to send their loved one here. Delta Airlines will transport a body at a reasonable rate. If we cannot use the body for some reason, we will still honor our commitment and accept the body and have it cremated at our expense. We can either bury the ashes in our cemetery plots or if desired return them to the family.

Does the Anatomical Gifts Program accept out of state donations?
Yes. However, the estate is responsible for transportation. We receive many donations from Mississippi and Florida. In fact, donations made to USA from places like Biloxi and Pensacola, are less expensive than donations made to the medical schools in those states.

If people donate usable organs, can they still donate their body to the Anatomical Gifts Program?
Yes, under certain circumstances.

What happens if the person decides to withdraw from the program?
They simply send a letter to our office and we will remove their paperwork from the files. The forms do not finalize the donation. The donation is not final until the executor of the estate initiates the donation at the time of death.

Can people donate the body of a family member?
The executor of the estate, usually a family member, may donate the body after the person has died. Approval by the Anatomical Gifts Program is required.

What happens if death doesn't occur at the hospital?
The coroner will have to release the body before we can take possession of it. Following release by the coroner, the body will be transported to us by the transport service, ambulance service, or funeral home of the family's choice. The cost of transport must be covered by the donor's estate.


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