The donation of one’s body historically is an accepted way to contribute meaningfully to essential advances of medical science. Bodies donated to the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine are used for educational purposes in the instruction for students training for the medical, physical therapy, and athletic training professions.
Bodies are also used in undergraduate anatomy courses, largely populated by pre-health care professions students, and by physicians and researchers who are involved in more specific studies to advance educational and basic science research outcomes in various medical specialties, such as orthopedics, otolaryngology, and plastic surgery.
The decision to donate your body to the Program is a serious decision, and we strongly encourage you to discuss your decision with your family. The procedure for enrolling in the Program involves completing the Donation Agreement and associated forms. One original, signed copy must be sent to the MU Gift of Body Program Coordinator. It is recommended that a second copy be made for your records. Wallet cards will then be issued to facilitate communication with Program representatives upon your death, and to communicate this information to family and caretakers.
Once you enroll in the Program, the Agreement remains on file in the office of the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences permanently. After enrollment, you can decide to revoke, or withdraw from the program by writing to the program.
At the time of death, the person in charge of the donor’s affairs should select and notify a funeral director to arrange transportation to Columbia and any other professional services needed or desired. The funeral director should then contact the Gift of Body Program (see contact information tab) directly to obtain proper transportation protocols. The cost of transportation and the funeral director’s professional service fees must be borne by the family or estate (see donation expenses below).
Costs related to donation that must be paid from the estate of the donor or by the next of kin include:
- Completion and filing of the Missouri Department of Health Certificate of Death by the appropriate authority (hospital or funeral home).
- Transportation of the body by a funeral home or transport service to Heartland Cremation & Burial Society in Columbia. Heartland Cremation is contracted with the University of Missouri to complete the embalming process for our donors, therefore the donors will always go there first. Once the embalming is completed the donors will be brought to the University.
Due to educational requirements, it is essential that the body be intact at the time of donation. Thus, we cannot accept a body that has been autopsied or from which major organs have been removed for donation after death. We do encourage those wishing to donate their organs to call the Midwest Transplant Network at 1-800-366-6791 or on-line at the MTN Website. One exception involves donation of eyes. A body from which the eyes have been removed will be accepted in our program. All arrangements for eye donation must be made in advance through the proper agency.
In general the only conditions that cause a rejection for a body donation are: (1) body not intact (exception of eye donation), (2) presence of a communicable disease (tuberculosis, AIDS, hepatitis, etc.) or any bacterial infections, (3) Maximum weight of 200lbs which is based on an average height, (4) body not processed in a timely manner following death and (5) any recent surgeries resulting in large incisions that have not completely healed. Occasionally there are times that our program is full and we are unable to accept donors.
If we are unable to honor your donation it will be the family’s responsibilities to make other arrangements. Completion of the enrollment form does not constitute a contract with the University of Missouri, but rather an indication of an individual’s desire to contribute their remains to the MU School of Medicine. Please understand that the final acceptance of a donation is dependent on the body being in a condition suitable for use by our program. Thus, while nearly all bodies donated to the program are accepted, this acceptance cannot be guaranteed. Please make family members aware of this, as it will alleviate distress if your body is not accepted by the program.
A request that is often made by the next-of-kin following donation is that a report be made of the physical condition of the deceased. The only way such a report can be made is by a qualified pathologist following a post-mortem examination of the body. Such a post-mortem exam or autopsy disqualifies a body for use in our program; interested parties may contact the Boone and Callaway Counties Medical Examiner.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I enroll in the program?
You can either contact the program administrator at 573-882-2288 or send an email to GOB@missouri.edu to request an enrollment packet. Or you can download the forms. There are four forms that should be filled out; Authorization for Donation of Body, Personal Information, Brief Medical History, and Authorization for Disclosure of Health Information. Original signed copies should be returned to the address of the Program Coordinator.
Do the forms need to be notarized?
No, donation forms do not need to be notarized. We only require the signature of two witnesses, along with the donor’s signature on each form.
Are you currently taking bodies?
In general, yes we are currently accepting bodies. If donors have already enrolled into the program and meet the requirements at the time of death, then we will accept them into the program.
How much does it cost to donate my body?
The family is responsible for the costs involved in transporting the body to the University of Missouri morgue. All expenses from that point on are incurred by the University. This includes embalming, cremation, and interring the ashes or returning them to the family.
Who should transport the body?
Generally arrangements need to be made by the family with a funeral home or transport service.
Can I donate my body and be an organ donor?
In general, no. Although we strongly encourage people to donate their organs, our program is for “Whole Body” donations. You may however arrange to donate your eyes with the Missouri Lions Eye Bank and still participate in the Gift of Body program. Donation of any other organs will disallow participation in our program.
Am I currently enrolled into the program?
If I change my mind, may I cancel my request to donate my body?
Yes. If you are an enrolled donor and decide that you no longer wish to be enrolled in the program, please send a written document or contact the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences, and we will remove you from the list. We will shred the enrollment documentation or we can send you the original documents for disposal.