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 150 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).
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.
Stanford can only transport bodies from within a 150-mile radius of the campus. If death occurs outside of a 150-mile radius of the campus, we are unable to accept the donation. In the case of a denied donation, families are responsible for coordinating an alternate arrangement.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.