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Anatomical Donor Program

We appreciate your interest in the Anatomical Donor Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. It is only through the generous gifts of our anatomical donors that our health professionals are able to advance their knowledge of medicine to an effective degree. You may be assured that we hold the privilege of studying the human body in sacred trust.

To register with our program

  • Call us at 205-934-4494 or email us to receive the Anatomical Gifts Application and return to this office. Please take time to answer all questions completely and include as much medical history as you feel comfortable. It is not necessary to have these forms notarized.
  • Make a copy of the completed forms to keep for your personal records. If you are admitted into a hospital, move to a retirement community, a nursing home, or any type of specialized care facility, a copy of your dedication form and instructions should be included in your chart or care plan.
  • Inform us immediately of any change in name, address, or next of kin information. Up-to-date information is crucial for us to have on file to ensure we have a contact on your behalf.
  • Fill out and keep the donor card on you at all times. (This will be mailed to you when we receive your completed registration forms and accept you into the program.) It is an indication of your wishes.
  • Please discuss your wishes with your loved ones who will be responsible for your intentions after death. Many donors do not make it to our program simply because their loved ones did not know of their intentions. We encourage you to give your family and physicians a copy of your forms.

What to do when death occurs

A loved one/caregiver should notify our program immediately by calling (205) 934-4494. An informed staff member will answer the phone 24 hours a day and arrange for the donor to be transported to our program. It is important that we receive the donor into our possession within an 8-hour time limit.

If you are interested in donating your organs for transplantation, information can be obtained by contacting The Alabama Organ Center at (205) 731-9200. However, in order to be a total-willed body donor; all life-sustaining organs must be intact. The only exceptions to this rule are donations of the brain to the Alabama Brain Collection at 205-996-9373. or of the eyes and corneas to the Alabama Eye Bank at 1-800-423-7811 and you must contact them for information about their programs. Please read our policy statement for additional requirements.

UAB Memorial Garden

The University of Alabama at Birmingham cemetery is located on UAB farm property at Cook Springs. It is a small cemetery, landscaped and well maintained with a single marker acknowledging the generosity of our total-willed body donors. The cemetery is not open to the public, but may be visited by donors' families and friends by appointment. Family members should contact Dr. Laura Fraser, Director of the Anatomical Donor Program during regular business hours at 205-934-4494 (after hours and holidays leave a message requesting your visitation).

Ashes of total willed body donors are interred in our cemetery if families do not wish to have them returned following study, or when there is no response to our correspondence to return the ashes after a period of two (2) years. There are no official ceremonies conducted at the time of the internment or individual markers placed; however, the procedure is performed with dignity and respect by the curator and all who assist. Otherwise, our students typically hold a Service of Gratitude on campus each spring, to which all family members will be invited.

Directions to UAB's Cemetery at Cook Springs

To visit UAB Memorial Garden at Cook Springs traveling from north Alabama, take I-65 South toward Birmingham merge onto I-20 E via Exit 261A go left toward Gadsden/Atlanta.  Take Exit 152 toward Cook Springs Turn left onto Cook Springs Road.  Go 1/8 mile to first paved road on right.

To visit UAB Memorial Garden at Cook Springs traveling from the city of Birmingham - go north on Hwy 65 and take Hwy 20/59 East via Exit 261A, then merge onto I-20 via exit 130.  Take Exit 152 and turn left at the stop sign.  Go about 1/8 mile to the first paved road on right.

For those of you who want to enter the location into your GPS device. You may use this address, which is located across the street. It will put you very close to the cemetery. The address is:

1325 Cook Springs Road
Pell City, Al 35125

Service of Gratitude

On April 6, 2024, UAB health professional students joined the UAB Anatomical Donor Program to host a Service of Gratitude honoring donors who contributed their bodies to scientific learning. The memorial was held in Volker Hall, Lecture Room A, and was streamed live on Zoom.

Click here to view the archived live stream.

Anatomical Donation FAQs

What is the procedure for dedicating a body for anatomical study?
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

When will I know if I am accepted in the Anatomical Donor Program?
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.

Are any costs involved in the donation of one's body?
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.

When are these charges due?
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.

Does the Program file claim for recovery of costs?
Our staff cannot become involved in insurance claims.

Should the dedication be filed with my will?
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.

Who files the obituary?
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.

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

Will you accept a body from which other donations have been given?
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.

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. 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.

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. 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.

What happens to the body after the Anatomical Donor Program receives it?
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.

How can I be sure my loved one's body will be treated with dignity and respect?
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.

How is the body disposed of after studies are completed?
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.

What arrangements would my family have to make to visit the Cook Springs cemetery?
The family may contact the administrator and arrange for the cemetery gates to be unlocked. Visitation is by appointment only.

May the donor request a program in which he/she wishes to be studied?
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.

Will my family receive a medical findings report or be given study details?
We do not provide any reports concerning pathologic findings, cause of death or details of the specific studies that are conducted.

Will the body be studied at the University of Alabama at Birmingham?
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.

Does the Anatomical Donor Program ever refuse to accept a body?
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.

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 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.

What happens if the donor moves to another state?
The donor should contact a medical school in that state to arrange for donation.

What if I change my mind? May I withdraw my dedication?
Yes, by notifying this office in writing.

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