Information on Bequeathing a Body


To bequeath your body to the University of Kansas you must complete the Certificate for Bequeathing My Body to the Kansas University School of Medicine form and return the signed original to the Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology. Make and retain copies of the signed original for your personal records, next of kin, caregiver, or attorney. We ask that you carefully consider your decision to donate, keeping in mind the wishes and emotions of your loved ones. After your bequeathal form has been received and processed, we will send a letter confirming your intentions along with a wallet-sized identification card.

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What is the Willed Body Program?

The State of Kansas, as have many other states, has adopted what is known as the "Uniform Anatomical Gift Act". This legislative action sets forth the legal guidelines whereby The University of Kansas School of Medicine may obtain the remains of those individuals interested in contributing to the advancement of medicine. Our Willed Body Program is vital to the education and research that will insure continued quality health care for future generations. We rely strictly upon the unselfish wishes of donors and their families.

What kind of studies will be performed with my remains?

The University of Kansas is responsible for training the next generation of physicians and Allied Health Care professionals. Part of this education involves the teaching of human structure and functions. Donors to our program become the young medical students' first patients. In an atmosphere of respect and appreciation, students learn the many thousand intricacies that make the human body function. They also learn that each patient is different and that each new patient will, in turn, teach them for the remainder of their careers. The Program also supports research and training in various surgical departments. Many patients at our Medical Center have benefited from procedures that would have been impossible to develop without the noble contributions of our donors. We participate in a loan program with other medical schools.

Should our Program fail to fulfill our needs, other medical schools provide human remains from their donor pools. Conversely, should our donations surpass our needs, we assist other accredited schools. The loan program does not affect any other provisions of the Willed Body Program; all donations are used strictly for professional health science education and research. All donations loaned to other institutions are returned to our school for cremation or in the form of cremains.

How long do the studies normally take?

Most teaching and research projects require one to two years. On rare occasions, a body cannot be utilized due to unexpected problems that prohibit proper embalming, and it will be immediately cremated. The cremains will be returned or scheduled for burial according to the instructions on the Certificate.

Can family members receive a report on the results of the studies/research?

No reports are generated. The majority of bodies are used for instructional purposes in the anatomy labs. We do not conduct detailed pathological studies (autopsy) on donors because the dissections are performed by students, not physicians. Abnormalities could be missed or mistaken which would result in an inaccurate or incomplete report.

What happens to the remains after the studies have been completed?

After studies have been completed, the remains are individually cremated. Each set of cremains are carefully placed in a separate container and handled according to the latest "instructions for final disposition of remains" on record. Cremains that are not being returned to a designated individual or facility will be interred together in a shared grave at Oak Hill Cemetery in Lawrence, Kansas. The gravesite is marked with a simple stone and affixed bronze plaque marked "KUMC" and the year of burial. The cemetery does not allow individual markers. The physical location of the grave site is available at the Lawrence Parks & Recreation Department in Lawrence, Kansas. Cremains being returned will be sent via US Postal Service Express Mail. Note: The recipient of the cremains will receive advance notice of the mailing, so it is extremely important that we be kept informed of any changes. IN THE EVENT AN ATTEMPT TO CONTACT THE RECEPIENT PROVES UNSUCCESSFUL, THE CREMAINS WILL BE INTERRED AT OAK HILL CEMETERY DURING THE YEAR FOLLOWING CREMATION.

Do the cremains contain 100% of the donor body remains?

Just as individuals who donate body parts for organ donation do not receive all the transplanted body parts back, the same is true in the Willed Body Program. All reasonable efforts are made to keep an individual body and dissected parts together and intact. There are instances in which parts of bodies are needed for a specific study (such as the analysis of the calcification of a small bone in the hand that is particularly prone to fracture) and may be analyzed months, even years later. The cremation cannot be postponed for the addition of small cremains. In other instances, museum quality dissections may occur on a regional body part; these samples are used for many years to help teach medical and Allied Health Care students. Be assured that for most individuals, the cremains are complete.

Will my family be able to attend the burial service at Oak Hill Cemetery? 

The burial is not open to the public. A representative from the Willed Body Program, a Funeral Director, and Clergy are present at the graveside service. The burial takes place each year on an unannounced date; however, your contact person will be invited to the Annual Tribute presented by the second-year medical students in honor of the previous year's donors. This ceremony is held each fall at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City.

What must be done at the time of my death?

Regardless of where death occurs, either a Funeral Director or hospital personnel should immediately contact the Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology because the time interval between death and delivery should not exceed 24 hours. They should call (913) 588-2735 to notify the Willed Body Coordinator. After hours, on weekends and holidays, a representative of the Program can be reached at (913) 588-5000, Pager #1900.

What happens if I die while away from my residence or I have moved?

The cost of transporting over long distance can be prohibitive to many families. Airlines will not transport dead bodies unless they have been embalmed; we do not accept embalmed bodies. In these cases, we suggest the family contact the nearest medical school for possible donation to their program. Keep in mind that the rules for acceptance may differ at other institutions.

Who provides transportation of my body to the University of Kansas?

The University does not provide nor pay for transportation. At the time of their decision to donate, we suggest donors contact their local funeral home. The Funeral Director will not only handle the transportation to the University but will also create, file and provide legal documents (death certificate, social security etc..)

Should the body be embalmed prior to delivery to the University?

The body should not be embalmed prior to transporting because we prepare the remains by a special embalming process that is not used in the funeral industry.

What if a family member wants a autopsy?

We do not accept autopsied bodies. Our department does not perform autopsies, nor does it pay for them or reports generated by them.

Can I be an organ donor and still participate in the Willed Body Program?

Organs or parts of the body should not be removed before delivery to our facility. There are two exceptions: the eyes and the brain. We allow removal of the eyes for donation to an eye bank. We allow brain removal for research provided you are registered and have participated in the Clinical Research Program at KU Alzheimer's Disease Center. We suggest you make your decision known to family or the person in charge of your affairs because it will be their responsibility to contact the Eye Bank or KU Alzheimer's Disease Center prior to delivery of your remains to our facility.

After my death, can the University refuse to accept my remains?

We try to honor the difficult decision that our donors and their families make to contribute to the advancement of medical science; however, the University must decline a body that may not be suitable for scientific or educational purposes. The University reserves the right to refuse a body donation. Some examples of declinable conditions may include but not limited to:

  • The body has been embalmed
  • Organs or parts have not been removed for transplantation (except eye enucleation)
  • Amputation have been performed
  • Decomposition is evident
  • Communicable or infectious disease
  • Emaciation, body contracture, jaundice or edema
  • Obesity
  • Open wounds (bed sores, incisions etc..)
  • Death resulted from severe trauma, drowning, burning, homicide, suicide, or accident
  • Autopsy

**Alternate arrangements for the disposition of your body should be made in the event that it could not be accepted

Are there any expenses involved?

The University of Kansas does not provide transportation nor pay for transporting bodies to our facility. Delivery arrangements should be made through a funeral home of your choice; however, once the donor is received in our care, there are no further expenses. The Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology assumes the cost of cremating the remains and interring or returning the ashes.

How would my family obtain a copy of my Death Certificate?

We do not provide Death Certificates. Contact the funeral home that provided transportation to our facility.

What is the purpose of the "Release and Cremation Authorization"?

The signature of the legal next of kin or representative not only releases the deceased body into the care of the University of Kansas Willed Body Program but also gives their permission for cremation of the deceased as well.

The right to control disposition of remains of a decedent vests in the following persons, in the order named:

  • DPOA (provided POA conveys the authority to make decision concerning disposition)
  • Spouse
  • Adult children
  • Parents
  • Person in next degree of kinship
  • Guardian at time of death
  • Personal representative of decedent

If your Power of Attorney is completing the Certificate, copies of the authorizing document(s) must accompany the Certificate.

What if I decide to cancel my donation?

The "Certificate of Bequeathal" is not a contract. Registration into the Willed Body Program is an acknowledgment of your wishes, to which you may make changes to or cancel at any time prior to the delivery of the body to our facility. Please send your written request to:

Dept. of Anatomy & Cell Biology
University of Kansas Medical Center
3901 Rainbow Blvd. ~ Mail Stop #3038
Kansas City, KS 66160

Last modified: Apr 12, 2018