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.

Individuals and families interested in enrolling as a whole body donor can download and print the Certificate of Bequeathal and a biographical and family information form or request a packet to be mailed. The biographical and family information form must be completed and returned along with a signed and witnessed Certificate of Bequeathal. Additional information is available in the Frequently Asked Questions on this page.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Any person 18 years of age or over may donate their body to medical science in Indiana. No upper age limit applies.

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.

Any adult family member or friend may witness a donor’s signature. It is not necessary to have the Certificate notarized.

No money is paid for procurement of bodies for anatomical studies. All human material utilized in teaching is acquired by donation only.

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 his/her family. However, the family must pay directly for newspaper charges for obituaries and county health department fees for certified death certificates.

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.

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.

The cause of death could prevent use of the body for medical education. If an infectious or communicable disease is present, or if there is trauma to the body that may render it unusable for teaching, the body cannot be accepted. Ostomies/stomas, recent surgeries, or excessive height and/or weight could also prevent acceptance. The Anatomical Education Program is unable to accept donors measuring over 6’0” tall or weighing more than 200 lbs; the maximum acceptable BMI for any donor is 27.

The Anatomical Education Program at IU School of Medicine makes every effort to accept all donations. However, if a body is unable to be accepted, then the donor’s family is notified at the time of the telephone medical screening and directed to call a funeral director to make arrangements for an alternative form of disposition.

All donations are used for the purpose of advancing medical education.

Bodies donated to the Anatomical Education Program are cremated. The program usually requires 18 to 24 months before the cremains may be claimed or inurned.

The Anatomical Education Program of Indiana University School of Medicine pays cremation costs.

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.

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 letter and may respond in writing to instruct the program to return the cremains by certified mail.

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.

Yes. Indiana University School of Medicine holds an annual memorial service in Indianapolis. Family and friends of donors who have completed the program and been cremated are invited to attend. The service is held in the fall, and families receive advance notice of the memorial service.

The Anatomical Education Program should be notified of the death at 317-274-7450, and the medical screening will be conducted over the phone. Once the body is accepted, the family should make arrangements with a local funeral director to assume responsibility for bringing your body to IU School of Medicine. In this case, the donor or their family will be responsible for the cost of the body being prepared and transported.

A donor may donate his/her eyes through Donate Life Indiana or the Indiana Lions Eye Bank. The donation of tissues or organs other than the eyes would render the body unacceptable to the Anatomical Education Program.

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.

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.

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.

If you have additional questions about bequeathal procedures or the Anatomical Education Program, call 317-274-7450.