Body donation after death

Useful information

Donating a body for scientific, medical or forensic research (sometimes known as “donating a body to science”) is typically done through what is called a whole or willed body donation programs. These programs vary widely – some accept bodies from organ, eye and tissue donors, cover expenses and return cremated remains to donor families, while others do not.

If you are interested in whole body donation / non-transplant anatomical donation, please contact the program of your choice to learn more and to register directly.  It is also strongly advised to make your family aware of any body donation arrangements.  Since the Donate Life Texas registry is specific only to organ, eye and tissue donation, your registration does not include body donation as well.

Please keep in mind that the condition of the body at the time of death may render it ineligible for whole body donation. For this reason, it is wise to have an alternate plan for the final disposition of the body.


Whole Body Programs

Accredited whole body donation programs may accept bodies from which organs, eyes, and/or tissue have been donated for transplantation.

Once a body is accepted for donation, these organizations typically cover the cost of transporting the body to their research facility, cremating the body after studies are completed, and returning the cremated remains to the family, usually in less than eight weeks. However, it is always advised to confirm the details of any program you are considering.


Forensic Body Donation Programs

Though forensic body donation programs typically do not accept bodies from which organ, eye and tissue have been donated for transplantation, it is highly recommended that individuals contact these programs for specific guidelines. Forensic programs are sometimes called “body farms”. Because their studies involve observing the natural decomposition of the body, they do not cremate any portion of the remains and no part of the body is returned to the family.


Willed Body Programs

Willed body programs at medical and educational institutions seldom accept bodies from which eyes, organs or tissue have been removed. If a donor’s body is accepted, the family may have to pay at least a portion of the cost of shipping the body to the facility. After the body has been cremated – within two to five years – the family may have to cover the cost of having the cremated remains returned.


Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine will NOT accept body donation if organs are donated already.

Arrangements for eye removal should be made by the family and the procedure performed before the body is transported to the college. Individuals seeking information on eye donation should contact:

Lions Eye Bank of Texas
Texas Medical Center
6565 Fannin, NC-205
Houston, Texas 77030
Phone: (713) 798-5500

Information on other types of organ and tissue donation may be obtained through :

Life Gift Organ Donation Center
2510 Westridge St.
Houston, TX 77054
Phone: (713) 523-GIFT (4438)
Fax: (713) 737-8110


The Importance of Informed Consent

Consumer interest in whole body donation is on the rise. Typically, the public considers body donation an altruistic act that makes body parts, organs, and tissue available for research, bio-product development, and demonstration of new devices. However, in a May 19, 2003, Boston Herald article, the chairman of the Health Law Department of Boston University’s School of Public Health said, “The market for body parts has become very lavish—skin, brain, heart valves are not just used for research but are part of a for-profit industry now. People need to be informed of this.

This is just one reason that a crucial element of any organ, tissue, or whole body donation process is theinformed consent of the donor and/or the family, which should, at an absolute minimum, include a voluntary decision based on full disclosure of the facts.

The following questions will help you get the information you need:

1. What professional accreditations, if any, does this organization have?

2. Is this a nonprofit organization?

3. May I be an organ, tissue or eye donor for living recipients before my body is donated for research or education?

4. What information about me must be provided by my family?

5. What costs will my family be required to pay?

6. What diseases or conditions at time of death would make my body unacceptable for donation?

7. Will you accept a body that has been autopsied?

8. Which tissues, organs, and body parts will be allocated?

9. For what purpose will the donated tissue, organs, and body parts be used?

10. If remains are to be used for research, can I or my family specify that the research be limited to a particular disease or condition?

11. What limitations can be placed on the use of tissues, organs, and body parts?

12. What entities will receive which allocated tissues, organs, and body parts? (If a recipient is a research program or the purpose is educational, the family should be told the name of the organization, the program, the specific body parts provided, and the location of the organizational recipient.)

13. What parts of the body will be included in cremated remains returned to the family?

14. Who can my family contact for additional information, and how can they be contacted?