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Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to frequently asked questions about the Willed Body Program at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 or a Program Representative at (913) 689-5064.

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.

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.)

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.

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

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.

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 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

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.

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

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.

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

KU School of Medicine

University of Kansas Medical Center
KU School of Medicine Office of Medical Education
Mailstop 1049
3901 Rainbow Boulevard
Kansas City KS 66160
Phone: 913-588-7200
Fax: 913-588-7235