Death provides many of us with a one-time chance to make a valuable gift to humanity. All major religions approve of body and organ donation for medical and dental teaching, research, and transplants. According to public opinion polls, most people believe that such donations are desirable.


With the advances in medical science in recent years, organ transplants have become fairly common. Organ donation is an extraordinary gift of life or sight to the recipient. Circumstances surrounding death may limit this option, yet the corneas of even elderly donors will be grateful accepted. If your wish is to aid the living with an organ donation, make sure your next-of-kin and your physician know this. This intent should be noted on any medical or hospital records, too. A body from which organs have been removed will not be accepted for medical study. To donate organs, go to


Medical schools have an on-going need of bodies for teaching and research. 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.

When planning for body donation, keep in mind that body donation programs will not guarantee in advance that your body will be accepted upon death. There are a number of reasons, such as certain communicable diseases, being severely over- or under-weight, recent smallpox vaccination, that would make a body ineligible for donation. For this reason, it is a good idea to make alternative plans for burial or cremation.


Because it is important for a medical school to start preservation as soon after death as possible, a memorial service is most appropriate for those planning on body donation. Alternative plans for body disposition should be discussed with your family.

A few schools take care of disposition regardless of condition at the time of death, in fulfillment of their contract with a donor. Most medical schools, however, follow guidelines in the acceptance of a body. If death occurs at the time of surgery, for example, the body would not be accepted for study. Certain diseases, as well as obesity, make a body unsuitable. Some medical schools may not have an immediate need and have no provision for storage or for sharing with another university.


There will be special considerations if death occurs while you are traveling and you planned on body donation. An individual’s body may be shipped to another state or country in a hermetically sealed container, but the cost can be significant cost and would be borne by your family. It may be more prudent for your survivors to contact a nearby medical school to inquire about their need for bodies or organs. The need for cadavers in some foreign countries is even greater than in the U.S. For example, in Argentina 200 medical students must share a cadaver. So let your family know about your preferences about your anatomical bequest and be sure to also note them on the Uniform Donor Card you carry.

In Georgia, the following Universities accept a deceased person’s body for anatomical use in their medical degree programs:

• Augusta University Anatomical Donation Program

• Emory University School of Medicine Body Donor Program

• Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Georgia Anatomical Donor Program