How to Donate

Procedure for Donating to the Anatomical Gifts Program

  1. An individual at least 18 years of age and of sound mind may make a donation to the University of South Alabama Anatomical Gifts Program.
  2. The donation is made by simply filling out the forms provided by us, having them properly witnessed by two persons, and returning one copy to us for our records.
  3. We will then send you a card that should be carried with you at all times.
  4. Inform a member of your family or close friend (generally whoever will be the executor of your estate) of your intention in this matter so that someone can ensure that your wishes are carried out after your death.

Frequently Asked Questions

▼   Why should I donate my body to USA's Anatomical Gifts Program?

The donation is a generous and unselfish act for those who wish to contribute to the living after death. The donor will help those in the medical field further their learning and training.

▼   Will I be paid by USA for my body?

No. USA does not buy bodies nor do other medical schools in the U.S. However, donation will relieve the family of some of the expenses involved with a traditional funeral.

▼   What happens after the body goes to the Anatomical Gifts Program?

The body is retained while used for long-term study and/or training. After the studies are complete, the body will be cremated and, if requested by the donor at the time of donation, returned to the donor's directed recipient. If the donor does not direct the return of cremains or if the directed recipients of the cremains fail to respond to the University within two (2) years of the University’s first attempt to contact them, the cremains will be interred in the Pine Crest Cemetery West during a future burial. You may request to have your cremains returned to the directed recipient by checking the appropriate box on the donation form. The cremains will be returned by priority express return receipt mail to the person who is designated on the donation form to receive them. The Anatomical Gifts Program pays costs incurred after the body has come to the Anatomical Gifts Program. The only exceptions are certified copies of the death certificate and burial costs after the cremains have been returned. If the cremains are requested after interment, all costs involved in this process will be the responsibility of the requesting party. 

▼   Is this the same as an autopsy?

No. An autopsy determines the cause of death in a short period of time. Anatomical dissection requires detailed examination of the entire body, with emphasis on normal structure. Further, no reports are furnished to the donor's family.

▼   Will my body be treated with respect?

Yes. Students are aware that the body from which they learn is a generous donation. No disrespect is permitted. All use of the body is closely supervised, and only a few faculty and staff members know the identity of the body. Bodies are not displayed to the public.

▼   Does my religion approve of body donation at the time of death?

Most religions approve, but if you are unsure, consult your minister, pastor, rabbi, or priest. You may also look at to see different religious viewpoints on organ donation.

▼   Are the bodies of registered donors ever rejected for donation?

Yes. We are unable to accept bodies of certain individuals, including, without limitation, those who had an infectious disease (HIV, AIDS, TB, Hepatitis, MRSA, etc.), are morbidly obese, emaciated, or decomposed, or experienced violent death, suicide, or autopsy. All requests for donation are considered on a case-by-case basis. 

▼   Can my family still have a funeral if I wish to donate my body to the program?

Yes. However, if the body is to be present at the service, it must be conducted within 24 hours of the time of death. You should discuss this with the funeral director of your choice.

▼   Do I have to make prearrangements with a funeral home, ambulance, or transport service?

We recommend the donor discuss the intended dedication with a local funeral director, ambulance service, or transport service so that the donor’s wishes are properly carried out after death.

▼   Does the program pay transport cost?

No. The Anatomical Gifts Program, although created by state law, receives no financial support from the state and has no funds to cover the cost of any procedures done by funeral homes or transportation to the College of Medicine. Therefore, the donor should make arrangements from the estate, or under the provision of the Federal Social Security Act, for coverage of this cost.

▼   How much will the funeral home, ambulance, or transport service charge?

Costs of different funeral homes, ambulance services, and transport services vary depending on the services rendered. 

▼   What happens if the donor moves to another state?

We suggest that you contact the local agency in your new state to make similar arrangements to comply with the local laws. We can assist you in finding another program if you contact our office.

▼   May friends and/or relatives make financial contributions to the program?

Yes. Gifts will be acknowledged to the donor and to your family. Funds from such gifts will be used only for medical education and training.

▼   What happens if death should occur at a great distance or if USA is unable to use the body?

If death occurs a long distance away from the University, we recommend the individual with authority for the disposition of the individual’s body donate the body to another medical school that is closer. We can provide such an individual with information on how to contact other programs. However, many families still desire to send their loved one here. Delta Airlines will transport a body at a reasonable rate. If we cannot use the body for some reason, we will still honor our commitment to accept the body and have it cremated at our expense. 

▼   Does the program accept out-of-state donations?

Yes. However, the estate is responsible for transportation. We receive many donations from Mississippi and Florida. In fact, donations made to USA from places like Biloxi and Pensacola are sometimes less expensive to transport than donations made to the medical schools in those states.

▼   What happens if the person decides to withdraw from the program?

The prospective donor simply sends a letter to our office, and we will remove the paperwork from the files. The forms do not finalize the donation. The donation is not final until the individual with authority for the disposition of the individual’s body initiates the donation at the time of death.

▼   Can people donate the body of a family member?

Even if an individual did not make a donation of their body during the individual’s life, it is still possible for those responsible for the individual’s body to donate the body to the program. Approval by the Anatomical Gifts Program is required.

▼   What happens if death doesn't occur at the hospital?

The coroner will have to release the body before we can take possession of it. Following release by the coroner, the body will be transported to us by the transport service, ambulance service, or funeral home of the family's choice. The cost of transport must be covered by the donor's estate or the individual with authority for the disposition of the body.