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Body Donation

The Anatomical Education Program was created in 1903 by the Indiana General Assembly to ensure the quality of education for medical, dental, and allied health students across the State of Indiana. This program is administered by Indiana University School of Medicine and is authorized to provide for the acquisition and distribution of donated human remains as well as the formulation of standards for the use of donated human remains.

At the time of an enrolled donor’s passing, a healthcare professional should simply call the Anatomical Education Program at 317-274-7450 to report the death and go through a brief telephone screening. Upon acceptance of the donor, the Anatomical Education Program provides transportation and embalming, notifies Social Security, and assists in filing paperwork (such as death certificates and other necessary forms). Following use of the body for teaching, the remains are cremated and either inurned in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis or, upon request, returned to the family.

The Anatomical Education Program traditionally holds an annual memorial service to honor those who have gifted their bodies to medical education in the previous year.

Make a Donation

Human bodies used for medical education are obtained entirely through donations, and an adequate number of donors allow the schools to maintain high standards of health science education and health care in Indiana. Those who decide to bequeath bodies to the health sciences make a significant contribution that benefits the quality of life and care of the living.

Enrollment Forms

Video

Service of Gratitude

The Anatomical Education Program hosts an annual service to honor those who have made this generous final gift to medical education. Click the video on the right to view the 2022 Service of Gratitude.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who may bequeath their body to medical science in Indiana?
    Any person 18 years of age or over may donate their body to medical science in Indiana. No upper age limit applies.
  • How do I enroll to donate my body to the Anatomical Education Program?
    Simply complete the Certificate of Bequeathal and Biographical Information forms and return the signed original documents to the Anatomical Education Program office. Body donors must be pre- registered with the program prior to death. Persons holding Power of Attorney or Health Care Representative may sign the bequeathal form on behalf of the donor if the donor is unable to sign. 
  • Who may sign as a witness on my Certificate of Bequeathal?
    Any adult family member or friend may witness a donor’s signature. It is not necessary to have the Certificate notarized.
  • How much does the Anatomical Education Program pay for bodies?
    No money is paid for procurement of bodies for anatomical studies. All human material utilized in teaching is acquired by donation only.
  • How much will it cost for me to donate my body to the program?
    If an individual donates directly to the Anatomical Education Program, no costs are associated with the donation. The Anatomical Education Program will provide transportation and embalming as well as assistance in filing paperwork (e.g., burial permit, death certificate and other necessary forms) at no cost to the donor or their family. However, the family must pay directly for newspaper charges for obituaries and county health department fees for certified death certificates.
  • May I have a funeral service or use a funeral home for the services listed above?
    If a donor or family elects to use a local funeral home, a healthcare professional must still call at the time of death to provide information for the medical screening to determine acceptance to the Anatomical Education Program. If accepted, the family may elect to have a funeral service with the donor’s body present, after which the body is brought to the Anatomical Education Program. Some families choose a traditional funeral service, while most donate directly to the Anatomical Education Program and hold a memorial service with no remains present at a church or funeral home, or wait until the cremains are returned (up to 24 months after death) to hold a service. A funeral director will charge for their services, and the donor or their family will be responsible for all funeral home fees.
  • What procedure should be followed upon my death?
    A nurse or doctor involved in the donor’s healthcare should call the Anatomical Education Program at 317-274-7450. IU School of Medicine has a contract mortuary service available to receive reports of a donor’s passing outside of normal business hours. A medical screening will be conducted over the phone to determine if the remains can be accepted.
  • What could prevent my body from being accepted?
    The cause or manner of death could prevent use of a body for medical education. A body cannot be accepted if an infectious or communicable disease (including COVID-19) is present or if there is trauma to the body that renders it unusable for teaching. Ostomies/stomas, amputations, recent surgeries, or excessive height and/or weight could also prevent acceptance. The Anatomical Education Program is unable to accept donors measuring over 6’1” tall or weighing more than 225 lbs; the maximum acceptable BMI for any donor is 30. 
  • May an autopsy or post-mortem examination be conducted on a body that is intended for donation to medical education?
    No, the Anatomical Education Program cannot accept autopsied bodies.
  • How will my body be used by this program?
    All donations are used for the purpose of advancing medical education.
  • What happens if my body is not accepted by the Anatomical Education Program?
    The Anatomical Education Program at the IU School of Medicine makes every effort to accept all donations. However, if a body is unable to be accepted, the donor’s family will be notified at the time of the telephone medical screening and will be advised to call a funeral home to arrange an alternative form of disposition.
  • What happens to my body after the studies are complete?
    Bodies donated to the Anatomical Education Program are individually cremated. The program usually requires 18 to 24 months before the cremains may be claimed or inurned.
  • Who pays for the cremation?
    The Anatomical Education Program of Indiana University School of Medicine pays cremation costs.
  • Can my family receive a report of your findings?
    Typically, no reports are provided to families. Because donors are utilized for education, bodies are studied by medical students who are not yet qualified to provide an assessment about causes of death or medical conditions. Donor bodies are studied to gain an in-depth understanding of human anatomy; research into specific diseases or conditions are not conducted.
  • Can my remains be returned to my family?
    Yes, most families choose this option. The donor may stipulate on the Certificate of Bequeathal a wish to have cremains returned to the family. Following cremation, the family will be notified by a Final Disposition Letter and may confirm in writing to instruct the Program to return the cremains by certified, insured, express mail.
  • What if I do not want my cremains returned?
    A portion of Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis has been set aside for burial of those who gave their bodies to benefit medical education. The cemetery area is marked with a memorial wall and path that can be personalized at a family’s request and expense. Inurnment in Crown Hill Cemetery requires written permission from the family.
  • Can a ‘keepsake’ portion of my remains be returned to my family if I choose inurnment at Crown Hill Cemetery?
    No. If the donor or their family requests that the Anatomical Education Program assume responsibility for inurnment, cremated remains will not be divided before being laid to rest in Crown Hill Cemetery.
  • Is a memorial service held for donors?

    The Anatomical Education Program annually hosts both a Service of Gratitude to honor all whole body donors and a graveside service for those who have chosen inurnment in Crown Hill Cemetery. The Service of Gratitude is held each spring and is open to all. The student-led Service of Gratitude includes a reading of the names of all donors from the previous calendar year. This service is an opportunity for students, faculty, and staff to express thanks and it is not intended to replace a family’s personalized memorial for their loved one.

    Families whose loved ones' names will be read will receive an invitation in the mail. The graveside service at Crown Hill Cemetery is held each autumn. Families whose loved ones will be laid to rest in Crown Hill Cemetery will receive an invitation in the mail.

    Details about upcoming services will be provided on this website.

  • What if I die in a different state?
    The Anatomical Education Program cannot accept the bodies of donors who die outside the State of Indiana. For information about whole body donation programs at other accredited institutions please visit: https://anatbd.acb.med.ufl.edu/usprograms/ 
  • Will the Anatomical Education Program accept my body if I donate my eyes and/or other organs or tissues for transplant?
    A donor may donate their eyes through Donate Life Indiana, the Indiana Lions Eye Bank, Vision First, or another agency. Eye donation is the only type of tissue donation that may be performed; the donation of other tissues or organs would render the body unacceptable to the Anatomical Education Program.
  • Where can I get information on the donation of eyes organs and other tissue?
    To register as an organ or tissue donor in Indiana, contact Donate Life IndianaLindsey Johnson, Director – 3760 Guion Rd., Indianapolis, IN 46222; 317-222-3414.
  • Should the bequeathal of my body be made a provision in my will?
    It may be, but this is not necessary. If this provision is made only in a donor’s will, the body may not be accepted, as there is usually a considerable delay before a will is probated. The Anatomical Education Program requests that the Certificate of Bequeathal be signed by the donor and two competent witnesses.  It is not necessary to include a copy of a will.
  • May I pay the expenses that the Anatomical Education Program incurs with my body donation?
    Yes. The Anatomical Education Program does accept monetary donations to help offset expenses associated with medical, dental and health professions education within the State of Indiana. Such donations qualify for an Indiana College Credit on state tax forms and also qualify for an itemized deduction on Federal tax forms.
  • Where can I find answers to additional questions I may have?
    If you have additional questions about bequeathal procedures or the Anatomical Education Program, call 317-274-7450 or email anatdonr@iupui.edu.