X-ray images of a human shoulder

Frequently Asked Questions

What conditions 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.

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?

Bodies will be accepted from Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota or UP Michigan, but the family must assume all funeral home expenses, including the cost of transporting the body to Wisconsin. 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 in other than these adjacent states. 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?

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?

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.

© 2019 University of Wisconsin Board of Regents