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FAQs

Why should I consider donating my body to science?

This unique and priceless gift of the human body provides the opportunity for knowledge that is the foundation of all medical education and research. Bodies that are donated to medical schools are used to (1) educate medical students at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) or other accredited medical schools, they are (2) used to educate non-physician healthcare workers at UMMS or other accredited schools of health sciences.  The bodies are used to (3) train physicians and surgeons at UMMS or other accredited healthcare institutions.  The bodies are used (4) in the development of medical devices, and therapeutic and diagnostic tools by researchers at UMMS and its scientific partners.  Bodies also are used (5) in other research efforts at UMMS and affiliated institutions.  Among these possible uses items (4) and (5) may involve shared use of the donor’s remains by research partners in private corporations, and that this research could result in the development of biomedical products of commercial value.  In all instances, the need for donations is great, and the gift is valued and honored beyond measure.

How can I donate?

Potential Donors must complete a UMMS registration packet (link to packet) which includes executing the enclosed Instrument of Anatomical Gift in accordance with the Massachusetts Uniform Anatomical Gift Act.  It is not sufficient to merely indicate intent on a donor card or driver's license. For the Instrument of Anatomical Gift to be valid, you must be of sound mind, over 18 years of age, and the Instrument must be signed by two witnesses who are 21 years of age or older. A donor must also choose an Executor or designated next-of-kin that is a responsible survivor, 21 years of age or older, that will act on the donor's behalf with UMMS’ Anatomical Gift Program (Program).

You may withdraw your donation at any time by notifying UMMS in writing. 

Please be aware that we no longer allow for family members to register a loved one when they are no longer mentally competent to sign the paperwork for themselves or after death. In order to be a registered anatomical donor with our program, an individual must make this decision with sound mind and of their own free will.

Please do not direct any questions to a funeral home, because they may not be able to provide accurate information about this program.

If I have additional questions, who should I contact?

Please use ANY of the following:

Telephone: 508-856-2460
Fax: 508-856-2476
Email: ummsagp@umassmed.edu
Online: umassmed.edu/anatomicalgiftprogram

Address:
Anatomical Gift Program
University of Massachusetts Medical School
Room S7-127
55 Lake Avenue North
Worcester, Mass. 01655

Under what conditions are donations declined?

UMMS may decline an anatomical gift for any reason.  Several reasons a donation may be denied include, but are not limited to:

  1. Certain infectious/communicable diseases including but not limited to: AIDS/HIV, hepatitis, meningitis, sepsis, tuberculosis, Creutzfeldt Jacob disease
  2. Extremes of weight
  3. Jaundice;
  4. Signs of tissue decomposition
  5. Open wounds or extensive trauma at the time of death
  6. An autopsied body
  7. Embalming that has occurred prior to the donation
  8. Individuals with plans to donate their organs
  9. Objections from the next-of-kin
  10. Current need of the program

UMMS may, for any reason, decline an anatomical donation. Therefore, alternate funeral arrangements should be made known to the donor's Executor or next-of-kin.

What happens when I am registered with the Program?

Once UMMS receives your fully completed registration materials, you will receive a letter of acknowledgement and a wallet donor card. It is your the responsibility to communicate with your next-of-kin or executor to ensure that your wishes are followed.

UMMS will communicate in writing with a potential donor if there are any concerns with the application or if the application is not property completed.

Who needs to be notified?

You should notify your family, close friends, physician and attorney (if applicable) of your decision to donate your body to UMMS’ AGP. You should update end-of-life decisions and legal paperwork. Typically, your HIPPA form and Health Care Proxy must include the Executor and next-of-kin that will act on your behalf at the time of death. If you live part-time in another state, you should also register as a donor in that state to avoid delays and additional transportation fees.

More information can be found online at: old.med.ufl.edu/anatbd/usprograms

What happens at the time of death?

Immediately following the passing of the donor, the next-of-kin, Executor or healthcare professional must notify UMMS by calling 508-856-2460 to confirm that UMMS will accept the anatomical gift.  If UMMS accepts the anatomical gift, UMMS will contact a contracted funeral home to arrange for transportation of the donor’s body to UMMS.  Under no circumstances should the next-of-kin, executor, family or medical professionals arrange for the transportation themselves.  It is essential that the donor’s body be transported to UMMS within 24 hours of the time of death, unless specific permission is granted by UMMS.

After death, what paperwork needs to be completed?

A UMMS-contracted funeral home will contact the Executor or next-of-kin to obtain the necessary information to complete the death certificate and other necessary paperwork.  Once the necessary forms have been completed and returned to the funeral home, the family may contact the Town Clerk’s office to order certified death certificates. Additionally, the surviving spouse should contact the Social Security Office for information regarding death benefits. 

The family is responsible for contacting any newspapers if the family wishes to submit an obituary. The newspaper may contact our program if the newspaper requires verification of the death for publication.

How long will UMMS keep my body?

UMMS may keep the donors remains for a period of one to three years before final disposition is made. Occasionally certain anatomic parts (particularly skeletal and nervous system components) may be retained for longer periods of time, even up to ten years.  In such cases, at the end of their period of use, those tissues are subject to disposition. The donors’ remains or cremains returned for disposition may not include tissues that are being retained longer for ongoing medical research or educational purposes. In those instances, at the conclusion of their use the retained tissues will be cremated and buried at the Pine Hill Cemetery in Tewksbury, MA in a UMMS registered grave.

What will my body be used for?

There are many uses to which anatomical gifts may be used in the advancement of science.  Upon acceptance of the gift of the donors’ body, UMMS may in its sound judgment and sole discretion determine which of these uses a gift will best serve. 

These uses include:

  1. Education of medical students at UMMS or another accredited medical school.
  2. Education of non-physician healthcare workers at UMMS or another accredited school of health sciences.
  3. Training of physicians and surgeons at UMMS or other accredited healthcare institutions.
  4. Development of medical devices, and therapeutic and diagnostic tools by researchers at UMMS and its scientific partners.
  5. Other research efforts at UMMS and affiliated institutions.

Among the possible uses, items (4) and (5) may involve shared use of remains by research partners in private corporations. This research could result in the development of biomedical products of commercial value.

Will UMMS provide my family with a report of studies completed from my body?

No. However, the Executor or next-of-kin may inquire as to the approximate timeline for final disposition.

What happens to my remains when the studies are complete?

At the conclusion of studies, which may be up to three years after death, UMMS will be responsible for final disposition according to the donor’s election on the Instrument of Anatomical Gift. If the donor chooses for their remains to be returned to their next-of-kin UMMS will notify the executor or next-of-kin for instructions regarding the disposition of the remains. If UMMS is not able to carry out the instructions for any reason (including but not limited to the Executor’s and/or next-of-kin’s refusal to accept the remains), UMMS will arrange for my body to be cremated, and buried at the expense of UMMS in the Pine Hill Cemetery in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, in a UMMS registered grave.

What are the costs associated with donating my body?

Massachusetts law prohibits payment for a body donation. However, UMMS pays for the following:

  • Filing the donor's initial death certificate
  • Obtaining a burial/transit permit
  • Transportation WITHIN Massachusetts
  • Cremation
  • The interment of cremated remains in a marked grave at the Pine Hill Cemetery in Tewksbury, Massachusetts or
  • The return of cremated remains to the Executor, next-of-kin (The Executor or next-of-kin may also make an appointment with the Anatomical Gift Program to personally retrieve the cremated remains.)

 Typically, the donor's estate only pays for:

  • The obituary (Newspaper may confirm death by calling the Anatomical Gift Program)
  • Copies of the death certificate
  • Private burial arrangements
  • The retrieval of any remains from UMMS which requires a burial container approved by the desired cemetery and the assistance of a funeral home.

Any additional fees, for services or out-of-state transportation, will be billed to the donor's estate.

Will there be a memorial service?

Annually, UMMS’ first-year medical students, guided by the UMMS AGP, create and host a service for the anatomical donors whose studies were completed that academic year.  Primary contacts will be sent an invitation to attend. 

More can be found online at umassmed.edu/annualmemorialservice

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