A body donor registration form must be on file with the Body Donor Program prior to the donor's death. Interested individuals can contact the program in writing, by telephone, or via e-mail to request a donation packet with the donation form and instructions, a pre-addressed return envelope, and a wallet-sized card which indicates the wish to be a body donor.
Fill out a donation form
A donor must fill out the body donor registration form and the completed form must be on file with the Body Donor Program prior to the donor’s death.
The donation form is a legal document that must be signed by two witnesses. Information required includes the name and signature of the donor, other personal information, and the name of a person(s) responsible for carrying out the donor’s wishes. We strongly urge that potential donors discuss this with their family or other responsible individuals.
Once the signed body donor registration form is received by the program, a postcard will be sent to the donor for his or her records.
The body donor form is not available online.
At the time of death
At the time of death, the Body Donor Program should be contacted as soon as possible by telephone. During business hours, Monday through Friday, call 608-262-2888. During evenings, weekends or holidays, call 608-262-2800. Upon notification of death, a Body Donor Program mortician will accept or decline the donation based on the physical condition and cause of death. If accepted, arrangements will be made for transportation to Madison.
Registering for the Body Donor Program is not part of a medical record. Medical personnel will not be aware of any body donation decisions or arrangements.
A body can be declined
It is important to know that occasionally a body must be declined. Reasons this may occur include certain infectious diseases or the overall physical condition of the donation. Those individuals who have donated their organs for transplantation (with the exception of the eyes) and those that have been autopsied, cannot be accepted. In the event that a body is declined, donors should have an alternate plan for disposition of their body.
Once academic studies are complete
The study of a body is typically complete after a period of one to two years and then the body undergoes cremation. There is a place on the Donor Registration Form to indicate if the ashes should be returned to the family or other responsible individuals. The remains of individuals not requesting ashes be returned are buried in a strictly confidential site located on university property that has been set aside for this purpose.
It is a tradition at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health for students who have studied human anatomy to conduct an annual memorial service in recognition of their donor’s gift each spring. Next-of-kin or those responsible for the donor’s affairs are notified and invited to attend. Donors and their families are honored through a variety of student and faculty stories that describe the deep meaning of this gift.