BODY DONATION PROGRAM
Dr. Edward T. Bersu, Director
For general information please call (608) 262-2888
Morticians (regarding Death of Donor) call (608) 262-2800
The study of human anatomy is an essential component of medical education. The School of Medicine and Public Health depends heavily on donors for the continued high level of instruction that Anatomy provides to students entering the health professions. At UW-Madison this includes Medical Students, Physical and Occupational Therapy Students and Physician Assistant Students. Residents in Training, Practicing Physicians, Physician Assistants, and Therapists also rely on gifted bodies for increasing their anatomical knowledge and for teaching of or training in specific clinical procedures.
Wisconsin Law, through the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (1968, revised 2006), provides that any competent person over 18 years of age, while living, may donate his/her body to the School of Medicine and Public Health at the time of death. We are deeply grateful to those whose interest in furthering medical education in Wisconsin leads them to make this donation.
THE DONATION PROCESS:
It is necessary that a Body Donor Registration Form be on file with the Body Donor Program prior to the donor's death. A donation form, instructions, addressed envelope, and a wallet-sized card indicating donation will be sent to individuals who request them by contacting the program in writing, telephone or via e-mail.
Requests can be mailed to:
Body Donation Program
School of Medicine and Public Health
1300 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706-1532
Telephone : (608) 262-2888
The donation form is a legal document when properly completed. Information required on the form includes the name and signature of the donor, the donor's address and Social Security Number, date of birth, parent's names, and the name of a person(s) responsible for carrying out your wishes and their relationship to you. The form must also be signed by two witnesses. These are usually the persons who are responsible for carrying out your wishes. There is also a place on the form that can be checked if you want ashes to be returned to the family or other responsible individuals after studies are completed and the body is cremated.
We strongly urge that the potential donor and his/her family or other responsible individuals review all material before signing the form and sending this form to the Body Donation Program.
The signed form should be mailed to the Body Donation Program in the enclosed addressed envelope. A postcard will be sent to the donor upon receipt of the completed form.
The Body Donation Form is not available online.
WHEN DEATH OCCURS:
At the time of death, the person(s) in charge of the donor's affairs should contact the Body Donation Program as soon as possible. Telephone numbers and specific instructions are included on the information sheet sent with the donation form. Upon notification of death, our Body Donation morticians will accept or refuse the donation based on the physical condition and cause of death. If accepted, arrangements will be made for transportation by our morticians to Madison.
The following are several conditions that will result in a donation being declined:
Individuals who have diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B or C, or Prion diseases
Individuals who are morbidly obese or emaciated, or whose remains have been mutilated or are decomposing
Individuals who have donated their organs for transplantation, with the exception of the eyes, cannot be accepted because major blood vessels and other organs have been disrupted.
Individuals who have extensive organ destruction from cancer or other diseases are not appropriate for donation
Individuals that have been autopsied cannot be accepted
The above is not a complete listing but includes the more frequent cases in which a donation is declined. In those instances where a donation is declined, it is the family's or other responsible person's obligation to make final arrangements. The information sheet that accompanies the Body Donation Form discusses in more detail the matters surrounding the declination of a donation.
WHEN STUDIES ARE COMPLETED:
A period of two to three years is usual before completion of the studies of a body. This includes time for the embalming process, studies by the students and cremation. If so directed on the original donor form, ashes will be returned to the designated family member(s) or other responsible party in an appropriate cremation container. The cremains of individuals not requesting ashes are buried in a common, unmarked grave on university property that has been set aside for that purpose. The location of this site is undisclosed.
It is a tradition within the Medical School that students who have studied human anatomy conduct a Memorial Service in recognition for the gifts of the donors. The service is held once a year and the next-of-kin or person(s) in charge of the donor's affairs are notified and invited to attend the service.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Can a person be too old to donate his or her body?
No. Only certain diseases or other conditions such as those listed above may make a donation unacceptable.
Will bodies be accepted from out-of-state?
No. Costs of transportation, legal issues and deterioration of a body during transport make it impractical to accept bodies when death has occurred outside of Wisconsin. If you leave Wisconsin, we strongly suggest that you make arrangements with a medical school in the state where you are residing.
Is it possible to have a funeral service before a body is brought to the School of Medicine and Public Health?
Yes. If this is the case, the family should inform the morticians at the time of death. It may be helpful for our morticians to talk with the funeral director before the body is prepared for the funeral. The family or other responsible person must assume the expenses associated with the funeral. Our morticians will arrange for transport of the body to Madison after the funeral.
What happens if death occurs on a weekend or holiday?
Our morticians are on call weekends and holidays. They can be notified in the same way as during the week.
Who is responsible for costs of the transportation of a body to the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health?
In a majority of cases, transportation costs are assumed by the Body Donation Program. In cases of severe weather or where both morticians are already involved in transporting a body to Madison, it may be necessary for the body to be held by a local funeral home until our mortician can travel to the site. In these cases, the family or other individual responsible for the donor's affairs must assume these interim costs.
Will the family or other responsible person(s) be sent a report of observations from studies of a body?
No. If there is a desire to investigate the cause of death, an autopsy should be performed. Autopsied bodies cannot be accepted for medical education. On rare occasions, the family physician may send a letter requesting that we look carefully at a specific organ or region of the body when it is being studied in the laboratory. We will comply with those requests as much as possible. Observations that we make may or may not provide the definitive information that is sought.
Will my body be used for research?
No. The bodies that are donated to the School of Medicine and Public Health will be used for teaching/educational purposes only. Students are not the only ones who may study the body, however. Residents, Practicing Physicians, or other health care providers may use a body to learn new procedures or to increase specific anatomical knowledge that is necessary for their practice.
Is any payment made to the family of a donor at the time of death?
No. The Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (1968, revised 2006), requires that the body be a gift to the recipient institution.
Body Donation Forms are not available on line.