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
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
- parents' names
- the name of a person(s) responsible for carrying out your wishes and their relationship to you.
- signatures of two witnesses. These are usually the persons who are responsible for carrying out your wishes.
On the form, you may also indicate that 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 their 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 Donor Program as soon as possible. Telephone numbers and specific instructions are included on the information sheet sent with the donation form. Upon notification of death, our Body Donor Program morticians will accept or decline 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
The following conditions make potential donors ineligible:
- Individuals who have diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B or C, or Prion diseases
- Individuals who are morbidly obese or emaciated
- Individuals whose remains have been mutilated or are decomposing
- Individuals who have donated their organs for transplantation, with the exception of the corneas of the eye
- Individuals who have extensive organ destruction from cancer or other diseases
- Individuals who have been autopsied
Completion of study of the body
A period of one to two years is usual before studies of a body are complete. 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, which has been set aside for that purpose. The location of this site is undisclosed.
Students who have studied human anatomy at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health conduct an annual memorial service recognizing the gifts of the donors. The next-of-kin, or person(s) in charge of the donor's affairs, are notified and invited to attend the service.