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Organ, tissue (skin) and body donation help other people or medical science.

Organ and tissue donation does not disfigure the body which can still be displayed in an open casket.

There is no cost to you or your family for making such a gift. You and your heirs do not receive any money for agreeing to the donation. If you donate the body, the cost of burial can be paid for by the medical institution.

It is a myth to think that a death may be unnaturally hastened to obtain donor organs or that organs may be removed even before the person has died. In fact, no doctor who is in any way involved in obtaining or transplanting organs can declare a person dead or even be present at the removal of that person's organs.

All 50 states have adopted a form of The Uniform Anatomical Gift Act which describes how you can authorize these donations. You can also authorize donations in your LIving Will or Healthcare Power of Attorney, or through a contract with a health care facility.

Usually next-of-kin permission is required in addition to your written consent.

For more information, see:

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Body Donation

It is possible to donate an entire body to a medical school for research and/or instruction. Generally, you may not donate any of your organs if you plan to donate your body to a school.

Medical and dental schools need cadavers to teach anatomy and other courses and to use in research.

If the medical school accepts the donation at the time of your death, the school will generally provide the cost of transporting your body to the school. The school will also pay for the final disposition of the remains, usually by cremation. Your remains can often be returned to a family member if that is your desire.

If you would like to donate your body to a medical school:

  • It is generally a good idea to make arrangements ahead of time.
  • Contact the nearest university medical school to make transport of the body easier.
  • If you're interested, you can ask how the body will be used.
  • Inform your spouse and other family members of your wishes and get their consent. Schools often refuse a body if relatives object.

Ask the following questions to ensure that you and your family understand what will happen:

  • Who will study my body?
  • What will be done with my body? Can I specify how the body can be used? Can I direct that it only be used by a particular researcher?
  • Who will pay for transport to the institution?
  • What safeguards do you have in place against misuse?
  • Will my body be shared with other institutions or schools?
  • Will my body be treated with respect? If so, how?
  • What happens to the body when research is complete?
  • What would cause the institution to refuse my gift?

To find medical schools or research facilities with anatomical research programs, see: offsite link

For additional information about whole body donation, contact the National Anatomical Service at 800.727.0700.

Organ and Tissue (Skin) Donation

More and more parts of the body can be used to help other people.

Organ and tissue donation do not disturb the look of the body. The body can still be displayed in an open casket. When you sign up as an organ donor, you're usually also signing up as a tissue donor as well. For instance, you're also donating heart valves, corneas and tendons.

Examples of parts that can be used, and the benefit to other people:

  • Skin ban be used for burn victims. It is cut in small squares from the back.
  • Eyes are used for patients who need corneal transplants because of post-cataract-surgery complications or the eye disorder keratoconus. For more information, see:
  • Bones can be used for orthopedic procedures such as hip replacement or knee reconstruction.
  • Veins can be used to restore circulation in heart by-pass surgeries. 

Consent By Next Of Kin

Most states have a "required request" law. The typical law requires that the next of kin consent to the gift of all or part of a decedent's body for transplantation or other purposes.

The laws usually specify who may be contacted to give consent in order of priority. For instance, spouse, adult children, parents, adult siblings, legal guardian or other authorized individual. An authorized individual is usually someone authorized or obligated to dispose of the body.

How To Make A Donation Of An Organ Or The Body

There are several ways to donate an organ or the body.  

You can:

  • Designate your decision to donate on your driver's license when you obtain or renew the license. It is the first place emergency personnel look to determine whether they should take steps to preserve the body for donation. Until you change your driver's license, you can obtain a card which you carry with you. For instance, see:
  • Organ donor cards may be available from your local hospital, or from the local or state office of your non-profit disease specific organization.
  • Register with the state in which you live. To learn more, see:
  • By a statement in your Living Will or Healthcare Power of Attorney.
  • Enter into a contract with a health facility to receive the body.

If you use multiple approaches, such as including the donation on your driver's license and in your Living Will and/or Healthcare Power of Attorney, it will increase the likelihood of the donation(s) taking place.

Discuss your desire to make a donation with your family or loved ones. Even if you sign a donation card, your family will be consulted before an organ or tissue donation occurs. It is unlikely that your wishes will be honored in the event that someone in your family raises an objection.