Medical Teaching: Anatomical Gifts

Body Donation

Medical schools have an ongoing need of bodies for teaching and research. The need may be especially urgent at osteopathic and chiropractic schools. No medical school buys bodies, but there is usually little or no expense for the family when death occurs. Therefore, if you live in an area where low-cost funeral options do not exist, body donation may be an economical as well as thoughtful and generous choice.

Most medical schools pay for nearby transportation as well as embalming and final disposition. The School may have a contract with a particular firm for transporting bodies, so it is important to inquire about the specific arrangements to be used at the time of death in order to avoid added costs. After medical study, the body is usually cremated, with burial or scattering in a university plot. Often the cremains or remains can be returned to the family for burial within a year or two. This request should be made known at the time of donation. Some medical schools require that a donor register before death. However, in many cases, next-of-kin may make the bequest without prior arrangement.

Donation Process

At the Time of Death

When death occurs in the Albany, NY area or in a local hospital or nursing facility, a family member, hospital staff, or funeral director should notify the Anatomical Gift Program at Albany Medical College at (518) 262-5379. The caller will be asked:

  • name of the deceased
  • location of the deceased
  • name, address and relationship to the deceased of the caller
  • whether a physician or medical staff has attended to the deceased

The Anatomical Gift Program will then arrange for the transport of the body to the medical college. Transportation to the medical college is provided by a licenced funeral director under contract with the Anatomical Gift Program. If the family of the deceased wishes to utilize the services of a funeral director of their choosing, any expenses and fees beyond those normally incurred by the Anatomical Gift Program will be the responsibility of the family or estate of the deceased .

Refusal of a Donation

The medical college reserves the right to decline the donation of a body when the remains are deemed unsuitable for educational purposes. A body should not be previously autopsied or embalmed. In addition, conditions that may render a body unsuitable include:

  • certain infectious diseases (AIDS, Hepatitis, tuberculosis)
  • extensive trauma at the time of death
  • advanced decomposition
  • extreme obesity or malnutrition

Please discuss alternate plans with your family, in the unlikely event that your gift of your body cannot be accepted at the time of your death.



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