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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. (click here for contact details)

The Donation Form

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. The potential donor should sign the form and send 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.

Note: 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 (click here for contact details). 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.

Conditions Resulting in a Declined Donation

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.

When Studies are Completed

A period of one to two 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.

Memorial Service

It is a tradition within the School of Medicine and Public Health 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.

© 2019 University of Wisconsin Board of Regents