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 and give a copy to your lawyer, physician, caregiver, or other significant person. We ask that you carefully consider your decision to donate, keeping in mind the wishes and emotions of loved ones. Completion of the "Release by Next of Kin" subsection is not required, but will confirm your families dedication to your unselfish contribution to medicine. After receiving your bequeathal form, the University will mail you a letter confirming your intentions and a wallet-sized donor identification card.

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What is the Willed Body Program?

The state of Kansas, as have all other states in the United States of America, 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 on my remains?

The University of Kansas is responsible for training the next generation of physicians and Allied Health Care professionals who will provide needed health care. Part of this education involves the teaching of human structure and function. 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 Willed Body 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 schools. The loan program does not affect any other provisions of the Willed Body Program; all donations are used strictly for professional health sciences education and research. The loan program also reduces the chance that a student will encounter a loved one or an acquaintance. 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?

The studies may take from 2 weeks to 2 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.

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 cannot conduct detailed pathological (autopsy) studies 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 the studies have been completed, the remains are individually cremated. Each set of cremains is 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 the burial. The cemetery does not allow individual markers.

Contact the Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology at the University for the location of a particular burial place. 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 USPS Express Mail. The recipient of the ashes will receive advance notice of the mailing, so it is extremely important that we receive notification of any change. If an attempt to contact the recipient is unsuccessful, the cremains will be interred at Oak Hill Cemetery in 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 answer is NO. The burial will take place each year on an undetermined date; however, your contact person will be invited to the Annual Memorial Service, presented by the first-year medical students, in honor of the previous year’s donors. The service is held at the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Kansas City, Kansas each Fall.

What must be done at the time of my death?

Regardless of where death occurs, someone (a family member, hospital or hospice personnel, etc.) should immediately contact the Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology at the University of Kansas School of Medicine because the time interval between death and delivery should not exceed 24 hours. During normal business hours (Monday thru Friday, 8am—4pm) they should call (913) 588-2735 to notify the Willed Body Program Coordinator. After hours, a representative of the Program can be reached by calling (913) 588-5000 and asking the University operator to page # 1900.

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

The cost of transporting over long distances 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 transportation. We suggest donors contact a local funeral home or funeral transfer service at the time of their decision to donate. Prior arrangements will give you the option of having a memorial service or being directly transported to our facility. You should be aware that the time interval between death and delivery is of great concern to the University. To make an optimum contribution to our studies, the time interval should not exceed 24 hours. If transport is impossible within 24 hours, please call the Willed Body Coordinator at (913) 588-2735 during normal business hours or (913) 588-5000 PAGER 1900 after business hours for instructions.

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 an 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 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 organ or eye bank. We allow brain removal for research provided you are registered and have participated in the Clinical Research Program @ 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 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 any body that may not be suitable for scientific or educational purposes. The University reserves the right to refuse to accept a body if any of the following conditions exists:

  1. The body has been embalmed
  2. Organs or parts have been removed for transplantation (except eye enucleation)
  3. Amputation has been performed
  4. Autopsy has been performed
  5. Decomposition is evident
  6. Communicable disease is present
  7. Medical obesity, emaciation, body contracture, jaundice or edema
  8. Death resulting from severe trauma, drowning, burning, homicide or motor vehicular accident, suicide.

Alternate arrangements for the disposition of your body should be made against the possibility that it would 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, 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 or transfer service that provided delivery to our facility. If they are unable to supply the document, you may obtain certified copies from the Bureau of Vital Statistics of the state in which the death occurred. In Kansas, the Office of Vital Statistics is located at 1000 SW Jackson, Suite 120, Topeka, KS 66612-1290.

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

When a donor is unable to sign the Certificate or someone else is signing on his/her behalf, that person must complete this section which releases the body to the University and permits cremation of the remains. The right to control disposition of the remains of a Decedent vests in the following persons, in the order named:

  1. The agent or health care decisions established by a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions, if such Power of Attorney conveys to the Agent the authority to make decisions concerning disposition.
  2. The spouse of the Decedent
  3. The Decedent's surviving adult children.
  4. The Decedent's parents
  5. The person(s) in the next degree of kinship under the laws of descent and distribution to inherit the estate.
  6. Guardian of the Decedent- at the time of the Decedent's death.
  7. The personal representative of the 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?

You may cancel your Certificate by sending your signed request to the Willed Body Program of the University of Kansas School of Medicine. If you are unable to sign, your Power of Attorney may submit the request.

Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology
Mail Stop # 3038, 3901 Rainbow Blvd.
Kansas City, Kansas 66160
Phone: (913) 588-2735
FAX: (913) 588-2710
PAGER: (913) 588-5000 – Ask to page # 1900

Last modified: Jul 06, 2016