Frequently Asked Questions

Who may donate?

The Body Donation Program of UT Health San Antonio is authorized by the laws of the State of Texas [1], which stipulate that donors must be at least eighteen years of age and competent to make such a bequest. Signing a form such as the example below is sufficient to validate the donor’s wish, provided that the signature is certified by two witnesses of legal age.

What costs are involved in the donation?

Following a practice that is standard throughout the United States, UT Health San Antonio does not pay for body donations; indeed, such payments are illegal. The institution does provide, however, for basic embalming and for transportation to the Health Science Center within a 100-mile radius, as well as for cremation of the remains following completion of study of the body. For additional details, see the explanatory information with the Body Donation Form, below.

What will my family do about a funeral?

Because use of a body in anatomical studies requires thorough preservation as soon as practical after death, it is usually not possible to have a traditional funeral service. Many donors and their families prefer to have a memorial service without the body present, and to eulogize the donor’s spirit in the service. Clergy or funeral directors can easily arrange this kind of service.

Will the people in the laboratory know that it’s my body?

To respect the privacy of the donor’s identity, names of the persons whose bodies are used in the Anatomy Laboratory are not revealed to students. However, students are aware that the bodies are available only through the generous gift of the deceased individual or the next of kin and are appreciative of the opportunity provided by their anonymous benefactors. Nevertheless, secure files maintained by the Body Donation Program make possible the positive identification of any particular body from the time it arrives at UT Health San Antonio until final disposition of the ashes.

What happens to my body after the students have finished their course of study?

Each body is cremated by personnel of the Body Donation Program, and the ashes are collected in a separate container marked with that body’s identification number.

What happens to the ashes after the cremation?

There are two possibilities: If members of the family have given prior instructions to the Body Donation Program, indicating a desire to receive the ashes following the cremation, the next of kin will be notified when the ashes are ready to be returned. A fee will be charged for the return of the ashes.

Burial of Ashes Ceremony If the family prefers not to receive the ashes or if no survivors remain, the ashes will be buried in the cemetery of UT Health San Antonio. This small part of the campus has been set aside as a memorial, honoring all persons who have donated their bodies for anatomical study at the Health Science Center.

How and when does that burial occur?

At a given point in the academic year, usually in the spring, the Body Donation Program conducts a burial ceremony at the cemetery. Ashes not returned to families are collected from the remaining bodies and are buried together. Participants in the ceremony include students, faculty, and administration.

Is there any reason that my body might not be accepted by the Body Donation Program?

There are several extenuating circumstances that can make a body unacceptable for the Program. These conditions are listed in the “Exclusions” section of the Body Donation Form below.

Do I have to sign the Body Donation Form in advance?

In some cases, it is not absolutely necessary for you to make prior arrangements. However, if you have made the arrangements the entire process is greatly facilitated.

What about my family?

It is vital for you to discuss your decision to become a donor with the members of your family. In some cases, family members need some time to become accustomed to the fact that their relative has made this unique decision about use in medical education of his or her body following death. By asking family members to serve as witnesses to your signature on the Will Form, you help them begin this process. In addition, at the time of death it is very important for the Body Donation Program to be notified as soon as possible, so that the body can be properly embalmed in a timely manner. When family members know in advance that they need simply to phone our office (210)-567-3900, the process is considerably easier.

[1] Health and Safety Code of the State of Texas, Title 8, Chapters 691-693.