Frequently Asked Questions

How do I will my body to science?

If you are interested in donating for the purpose of medical education and research, contact the Willed Body Program at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth at (713) 500-5603 and request that we send Willed Body Donor Forms to you. Upon receipt, complete the forms, have them witnessed, and return the originals to the McGovern Medical School.

Can I donate a body to science not registered with our program?

Yes, in the event that someone dies and has not filled out the proper documentation, is near the time of death or if the person is unable to sign forms for themselves, the legal next of kin can make the donation if the donor meets the criteria of our program. Contact the Willed Body Program at (713) 500-5603. If this is an urgent donation matter, we ask that you call the 24/7 Donation Pager (713) 760-2649. After the donor is accepted to the program, you will be provided an After-Death Donation Form to complete and return to the Willed Body Program.

The State Anatomical Board of Texas defines the legal next of kin in priority order as follows:

a) Spouse
b) If no living spouse, an adult son or daughter
c) If no living spouse or adult son or daughter, then either living parent
d) If no living spouse, adult son or daughter or either parent, then an adult brother or sister.

Do you accept a body which has been autopsied?

No. It is not a good teaching specimen for the study of human anatomy. However, sometimes we have a special project in progress that allows us to accept the donation. Therefore, you would have to call us at the time of death to determine whether or not we could accept an autopsied body.

If I am signed up with an organ donation center, can I still donate my body to The Willed Body Program?

Yes, under special circumstances. We will not accept a body if internal organs have been removed (post-mortem) for transplantation. You may, however, register with both organizations so that at the time of death if the organs are not suitable for transplantation, you may be able to donate the whole body to our program. We want the body to be in the best possible condition for our anatomical teaching and research. To remove internal organs for transplantation would cause the body to be unusable for instructional purposes.

When a person dies, what does the family do?

At the time of death, after the proper authorities have been notified (e.g. 9-1-1, hospice nurse, care facility nurse, etc.), the family or authorities should contact the Donation Pager at (713) 760-2649 at any time, day or night, and inform us if the decedent is registered with our program or if it is an after-death donation.

What if I live outside of Houston, can I still donate my body?

Yes. We will provide transportation of the body from any location in Texas. Our contracted funeral home will assess an embalming fee (currently $400) to donors beyond 100 miles from the McGovern Medical School. The Medical School will pay for transportation and mileage if the place of death is within a 300 mile radius of The University of Texas Health Science Center McGovern Medical School at Houston 6431 Fannin Street Houston, Texas 77030. However, in addition to the embalming fee, if the place of death is beyond 300 miles, a “mileage” fee is also assessed by our contracted funeral home for each mile beyond 300.

When would a body be unacceptable for donation?

We would not accept a registered donor’s body for the program if the body has been severely injured in an accident, if a highly contagious disease such as hepatitis, VD, TB, HIV or MRSA/VRE is present at the time of death; if the body is morbidly obese, has excessive generalized edema or if the body is too large for storage purposes. We will not accept a body that has had internal organs removed (post-mortem) for transplantation.

Can a body be donated for specific disease research?

No. The primary use of the cadavers is for medical education. We do not accept bodies to ascertain the cause of death or for specific disease research.

Are there age restrictions for body donation?

There is no age maximum, but the minimum age is eighteen (18) years-old.

Can I obtain a tissue sample for DNA analysis after donation?

No. The logistics of providing specimens of this type are not feasible.

What do you do with the body and how long do you keep it?

Donated bodies are used in the teaching of anatomy to medical students, for continuing education courses, for medical doctors and for special projects. The bodies are housed at our facility and may be used for 2 years or more, but depending on various factors this length of time could be considerably less.

What do you do with the remains when you are finished?

McGovern Medical School will cremate all remains.

Is there a fee for the return of the cremated remains?

Yes, if the donor or family requests that the cremated remains be returned to the next of kin or designee, we charge a fee for cremation services (currently $250.00). If paid in advance, the fee is nonrefundable. There is no charge for cremated remains designated for scattering at sea. The cremated remains will be held for at least 90 days following notification by mail that the cremated remains are available for return. If no contact is established with the legal next of kin or designated recipient, the cremated remains will be co-mingled in preparation for scattering at sea and will no longer be available for return. It is extremely important to update the recipient’s contact information with the Willed Body Program.

How does one cancel a body donation?

Written notification to our office of your wish to rescind your donation will remove you from our database.

Should a notation be in the will of someone donating their body?

Yes. Doing so would emphasize your desire to make the donation.