Body Donation

Whole Body Donation FAQ's

People often choose to donate their entire body to science.

Who accepts bodies and why?

  • Universities: for educational purposes (teaching medical students) and for a wide array of medical science research.
  • Some states have non-profit organizations or divisions within the state department of health that accepts body donations and distribute them to various Universities and Research institutions.
  • There are a few hospitals (teaching or research heavy hospitals), such as the Mayo Clinic, that have donor programs.
  • National non-profits organizations distribute bodies mainly to medical schools

In Utah, the only entity that has a body donor program is the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Utah’s School of Medicine. There are several national non-profit organizations that assist individuals in body donation (for example, Biogift and Science Care). 

These organizations place the bodies with accredited universities with medical schools, government health agencies, and other accredited medical research facilities. The main drawback to the national body donation organizations is that you don't have a say as to what institution your body goes to and you cannot choose what type of research your body is used for.

If you agree to body donation do you pay anything? 

The national non-profit organizations mentioned above (Biogift and ScienceCare) cover all associated costs, including transporting the bodies from anywhere in the United States. The University of Utah will pick up bodies at no charge if they are within a 50 mile radius of the University. If the body is outside of the 50 mile radius, the estate will be responsible for the additional transportation fees. 

Do these organizations pay anything for the body?

No. Federal law prohibits payment for body donations.

How quickly does the body need to be donated?

Most organizations request that a trustee or executor contact the entity accepting the body as soon as possible after death. Typically, they like to start making  arrangements to accept bodies within a few days after death.

Is it possible to have an open casket viewing before the body is donated?

Some organizations (for example, the University of Utah and Biogift) do allow an open casket funeral service before the donation occurs. However, the mortician must consult with the organization before preparing the body for the viewing.

What happens to the body after the scientific and medical research?

The University of Utah’s policy is as follows: At no expense to the family, the body is cremated and, in accordance with the donor's wishes, the ashes are either returned to the family or placed in a common repository at the Salt Lake City Cemetery. The national organizations mentioned above have a similar procedure. With the University of Utah and most national organizations, it appears that cremation is the only option once they are done using the body for research. In fact, sometimes only part of the body, the part not being used further, will be cremated and returned to the family.

How do you donate your body to science? 

The procedure for Body Donation with the University of Utah is as follows:

  1. Fill out two copies of the authorization form provided by the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Utah  School of Medicine.  One copy should be returned to the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy and one should be kept with the donor's personal papers (you can obtain an authorization form by calling the department or by visiting their website).
  2. A wallet card will be mailed to you upon receipt of your authorization form. Sign the wallet card provided by the Department and carry it with you in case of accidental death.
  3. Inform your family of your plans. Your wish to donate your body can also be included in your will.

Organ Donation FAQ's

Instead of donating your entire body, you may also opt to just donate your organs.


What is required for organ Donation?

Organ donation can only occur if an individual has been declared brain dead or in some situations where cardiac arrest has occurred.

Who can be an organ donor?

Anyone can register as an organ donor and tissue donor--medical determination concerning the viability of the body parts is not made until after death. Age and current state of health are not factors in determining who can be an organ donor.

Which organs or tissues can be used?

You can decide when you register what organs/tissues you want to donate. Viable organ donors are relatively rare. Tissue donation is more common. This includes eyes, bones, skin, veins, heart valves, and tendons. This is more common because these items can be harvested even after a heart has stopped beating. 

Age, disease, or state of health does not eliminate an individual from being a donor. However, these factors may affect what tissues can be used from the donated body.  Medical research and education criteria for donation are less stringent than for transplant donation.

According to the University of Utah’s School of Medicine, some circumstances, such as major recent surgery, traumatic accident, autopsy, ascites, edema, obesity, contagious disease, jaundice, or organ donation other than skin and eyes, may render the body tissues useless for study (they still encourage you to notify the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the time of death, because the severity of the condition will be a factor in determining whether the body can be accepted). The University of Utah does not accept bodies of infants or small children.

How do I become an organ donor?

There are two ways to register in the state of Utah:

  1. Simply fill out an application that can be obtained online at, or 
  2. Make the donor selection when you renew your driver's license. 

You can also register as an organ donor with The United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS). This is a non-profit organization that is contracted by the federal government to manage the nation's organ transplant system. It manages a national database that ranks patients needing organ and tissue transplants. 

The database, which ranks patients on a wide array of issues, is what determines where and to whom organs/tissue go to (visit for more information). With both of these organizations, body parts are extracted in a way that allows for an open casket funeral.

Body Preservation and Cryogenics

Call for discussion, analysis, and review of Cryogenics and other body preservation organizations and their services and agreements.