Clinical Anatomy In The Department of Surgery

Willed Body Donation Program

Are you planning to donate your body to science? Consider Whole Body Donation to Stanford.

QUICK LINKS

» Register Online
» Download Information Packet
» Request Immediate Body Removal
The decision to donate your body to Stanford upon your death represents a priceless gift to the world of medical education and a tremendous opportunity for the students who will one day be among our society’s most talented—and best trained—doctors and scientists. Please consider registering now to become a donor.

Information for Donors

How The Program Works

Once you register to become a donor to the Willed (Whole) Body Program, Stanford’s Division of Clinical Anatomy will keep your name and contact information on file. Upon your death, a caregiver or family member must contact us right away (within 24 hours of death). We take calls 24 hours/day, every day of the year. We will arrange for a funeral home to transport your body to Stanford Medical School, where it may be used to teach students about the structure of the human body, and for the purpose of conducting medical research.

Once study of the body is complete, we will arrange for cremation. (The study period may range from one month to two years, but it is typically about a year in duration.) At the time of donation, your family will be asked to specify whether they wish for the cremated remains to be returned or whether they would like us to arrange for interment. Our faculty, students, and staff are very grateful for the kindness our donors have extended, and bodies are treated with the greatest respect while in our care.

REQUESTING IMMEDIATE
BODY REMOVAL UPON DEATH


Upon the death of a pre-registered donor, please call the 24-hour donation pickup line at 650-723-2404 as soon as possible, and we will arrange for a mortuary to retrieve the body within a few hours.

This phone number is monitored all day, every day, including weekends and holidays, so do not wait to contact us. Calling this number will page one of our staff members, who will call you back promptly. In most cases we must receive the body within 24 hours of death.

Occasionally, a donor’s illness or other considerations will prevent us from being able to accept a donation. Our representative will make this determination during the initial phone call and will inform you in the event alternate arrangements will be needed.

Does the program cost anything? Is a payment involved?

Donors do not receive payment for their participation in the program, nor are they charged for participating. Stanford covers the cost of transporting your body if death occurs within 100 miles of campus, as well as costs of cremation. A donor’s family incurs a cost only in unusual circumstances (e.g., to ship cremated remains if no family member is able to pick them up, or to make alternate arrangements if Stanford determines that it cannot accept the donation), or for transportation costs if death occurs more than 100 miles from campus.

Sometimes, a donor or family makes a monetary gift to support the costs of running the program, or encourages loved ones to make gifts. Such gifts are not required but are gratefully accepted.

What if I change my mind?

Registering for the program indicates your intent to be a donor. However, it is not a legally binding contract. If you change your mind, simply notify us and we will remove you from our registration list. It is important to tell your family and caregivers your wishes—they are the ones who must know whether to contact us upon your death. After your death, decisions regarding the donation of your remains are made by the person who has legal authority over your affairs.

Can I donate my body if I am also an organ donor?

Yes. In the case of eye donation, we can easily accept a body after the eyes have been removed. In some cases we can also accept a body after other organs have been donated (e.g. liver, heart, kidneys), as long as the body can be transported to us promptly. If too much time passes or other unusual circumstances occur, we may have to decline the body donation, in which case the family must be prepared to make other arrangements. 

What are my family’s options for a funeral?

Because we must receive body donations promptly (within 12 hours of death), it is not possible for bodies to be embalmed elsewhere or to be present at a funeral or viewing. Of course, a memorial service may be held without the remains present. Also, families may request at the time of donation to have cremated remains returned some time later, as described previously. Some families choose to remember the deceased at this time as well.

Is there an age limit?

No, there is no upper age limit to donate your body.

Can Stanford decline my offer to donate?

Though we accept most body donations, in a small number of cases we are not able to accept a donation even when a donor has pre-registered. Stanford has the right to refuse a donation and may do so for a variety of reasons. For example, we are not able to accept bodies from those who have certain infectious diseases (e.g. hepatitis, tuberculosis, MRSA, VRE, Staph) or those who are HIV positive. If an autopsy has been performed on the body or if death occurred during major surgery, we cannot accept the donation. This is not a complete list—there may be other circumstances in which we cannot accept a body. Upon the death of a donor, a family member or caregiver must contact our program staff by phone. At that time, our staff will make a final determination as to whether the body can be accepted by our program. If, at our discretion, we are unable to accept your body, your family must make alternate arrangements for it. It is therefore a good idea to have a backup plan in place in case unforeseen circumstances prevent us from accepting your body donation.

Death Certificate and Medical History

At the time of death, the attending physician will complete a death certificate. In most cases, Stanford will coordinate the filing of this certificate for you. It is not necessary to provide a medical history of the donor. However, if one is available, it will be helpful to our students in the course of their studies.

Protecting Your Privacy

From the moment you register for our program, we make every effort to keep your name and other personal information confidential. Students and researchers are not told donors’ names, nor does Stanford publish them. In some cases, donors or their families may choose to disclose that they are supporting Stanford’s Willed Body Program, such as when asking loved ones to make gifts to the program.

Ready to Register?

Questions?

Email us at anatomy@stanford.edu or call us at 650-725-6624.

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