Anatomical Donation FAQs


Anyone eighteen years of age or older who is of sound mind may dedicate their body for study by completing the forms and returning the original to this office

Your acceptance to the program is complete once you receive confirmation documents and Anatomical Donor Cards for you and for you to distribute to your next of kin.

Yes, the costs are $750. We provide the following services: transportation from site of death; special preservation procedures; maintenance, cremation and interment or return of ashes. Pre-paid donors that are not donated for any reasons will be refunded the prepayment.

The costs may be prepaid or paid within 90 days of the date of death. If need be we will allow monthly payments until the full payment can be made, but you will need to discuss this arrangement with our program first. If payment cannot be paid during this period, notification in writing or by telephone should be made.

Our staff cannot become involved in insurance claims.

In most instances, the will is not read until several days after the donor's death.  Because of our limited time constraints, it is important that the donor's next-of-kin are made aware of his/her wishes at the time of registration and that they notify the program immediately when death occurs.

A family member, power of attorney or executor is responsible for handling the obituary. We will provide the obituaries department with a confirmation of death fax. This speeds up the process for getting the obituary filed.

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 to the Social Security Office in the area of the donor's residence.

The body should have all vital organs intact (brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, liver). However, if the donor has arranged to donate his/her brain to the UAB Brain Resource Program for study, we should be informed at the time the dedication forms are submitted.  We cannot accept bodies from which other vital organs are removed for transplantation purposes. When possible, we also prefer to receive bodies with the corneas present. The donors are studied by future ophthalmologists and optometrists who require that the eyes to be intact for effective study.

It is not necessary to use a funeral home when donating a body. In some cases, however, the family members do wish to have a funeral home involved in the transportation of the body. The family is responsible for any additional costs in these situations.

For those who live outside of the Birmingham area, we ask that the families to allow sufficient time for the arrival of our transporters because they are dispatched from Birmingham. In an attempt to keep expenses to a minimal, we do not contract with transporters in every city. If families are concerned about the wait time or if hospice is involved and the nurse is unable to wait the amount of time necessary for the transporters to arrive, then we suggest that the donor or next of kin make arrangements with a local funeral home, so that when the time arrives, the body can be taken to the funeral home and we will pick up the donor's body there. Please note: This expense will be the responsibility of the family.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to hold a viewing or conduct a funeral for the donor due to the time constraints. However, most families hold memorial services for loved ones shortly after the donation. Students usually have a donor memorial service to honor the donors each year.

The body is prepared for long-term study of approximately 12 – 18 months. Students who are preparing to enter the health professions will study these bodies in the gross anatomy laboratory.  On occasion, we will use bodies for therapeutic research purposes. 

The School of Medicine takes anatomical donation very seriously. Our students, faculty, and staff treat each donor with utmost respect and dignity. The anatomy education of our health professions students includes a discussion of the sanctity of anatomical donation, the educational benefits to future doctors and health care providers, and the proper behavior in the anatomy lab. In addition, our students participate in an annual service of remembrance in which they express gratitude to the families of our anatomical donors.

Following anatomical study and in keeping with Alabama law, the body must be cremated. The administrator performs cremations. The ashes (remains) may be returned to the family or interred in the Meditation Garden at Cook Springs. Family members must confirm that the ashes are to be returned after the death of a donor by completing the ashes disposition form and mailing it back to our office. The interment sites are not individually marked. There is one single granite stone acknowledging the gifts of the donors located in the cemetery area as well as all who have donated for medical education and research.

The family may contact the administrator and arrange for the cemetery gates to be unlocked. Visitation is on certain weekends only.

Unless arrangements have been made with the donor's physician, we cannot agree to accept a donor for a specific project. Special requests should be discussed with the director and are up to her discretion. However, the Anatomical Donor Program and the Department of Neurology's Alzheimer and Parkinson Programs work as a team with potential brain donors and total-willed body donors. Otherwise, our policy is to use the donors as needed.

We do not provide any reports concerning pathologic findings, cause of death or details of the specific studies that are conducted. 

The majority of our donors are used for studies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Occasionally we receive a request from health professionals outside UAB. If the request is approved, we supply a cadaver 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 and, 3) that the cadaver is a mandatory requirement of the study. Following completion of the study, the body must be returned to UAB for cremation and disposition.

Total-willed body donors must be pre-registered with our program prior to death to assure acceptance at death. The family should be made aware that if the donor dies due to an infectious disease such as HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease; is extremely obese or emaciated; has viral or bacterial infection, has suffered a violent death; is a suicide victim or has had vital organs removed for transplantation purposes; the body will be cremated upon receipt. All other requests for donation are considered on a case-by-case basis.

We recommend that the body be offered to the nearest medical school. However, if the donor has specifically requested to be returned to Birmingham, all additional costs must be borne by the donor's estate. 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.

The donor should contact a medical school in that state to arrange for donation.

Yes, by notifying this office in writing.