Body Donation Program
Department of Cell Systems & Anatomy
UT Health San Antonio
Mail Code 7762 • 7703 Floyd Curl Drive • San Antonio, Texas 78229-3900
Purpose of the Body Donation Program
The Body Donation Program provides anatomical material that is essential for the furtherance of medical knowledge. Most of the bodies which come through this program to UT Health San Antonio are used in the teaching of anatomy (body structure) to medical students, dental students or students of the allied health sciences. Some bodies are used by resident physicians and dentists in their training for specialty practice. Other bodies may be used by biomedical scientists in research aimed at the solution of specific health problems or the development of new medical or surgical procedures or devices. In all cases, the Body Donation Program retains control of the body and is responsible for its treatment in a manner befitting a human body.
Procedure for Donating Your Body
Texas law (Health and Safety Code of the State of Texas, Title 8, Chapters 691-693) allows persons 18 years of age or older to will their bodies for use in the advancement of medical science. This bequest does not require the consent of relatives and may be made by completing the simple statement on the attached Body Bequeathal Agreement form. The statement requires the donor’s signature, attested to by the signatures of two witnesses of legal age. The form does not need to be notarized; and relatives, spouses, or neighbors, etc., may sign as witnesses. In fact, it is desirable to have such persons witness the form to avoid misunderstanding among the survivors. You have been given one copy of the will form designating UT Health San Antonio as recipient of your body. When you have completed the form, please return it to the address at the top of the page for registration by our office.
After your will is entered into our records, a signed copy of the form will be returned to you, along with a wallet card that identifies you as a body donor. One copy of the form should be kept with your personal papers, but do not place it in a safe deposit box in a bank vault. It is important to use these forms and follow this procedure, since a bank box may not be opened or a formal will may not be read until it is too late to comply with your intentions to have your body used for medical purposes. Other copies of the form may be used to inform the person who is likely to manage your affairs at the time of your death that you wish your body to be used in medical science. Also notify your family, attorney, doctor, and friends of your bequest.
Arrangements for Delivery of your body to UT Health San Antonio
For use in medical studies, bodies must be specially embalmed as soon after death as reasonably possible; if embalming is not begun within six to ten hours after death, the body may not be acceptable. The Body Donation Program can help make these arrangements at the time of death; if the family so desires, they should call the office at 210-567-3900. In case of difficulty in reaching the department office by phone, call the University Police at (210) 567-2801 and ask that they relay the message to us.
If the family prefers to make private arrangements with a mortuary, the Body Donation Program should be informed at the time of death and then called by the funeral home when the body is ready to be released; in this case, it may be helpful to provide a copy of the will form and these instructions to the firm that is likely to be chosen. If a funeral is to be held, the Body Donation Program should be notified of the death and called again after the service is completed, to arrange for delivery of the body. Please note that embalming beyond that needed for anatomical study will render the body unacceptable; if questions regarding procedure arise, please have the mortician call our office for clarification.
Disposition of Remains
After study of the body is completed, the remains shall be cremated. It is not unusual for the length of study to require three (3) to five (5) years, but it may be shorter. We will neither promise nor agree to a time span for the length of our studies. If a request has been made to return the ashes, our office will call the telephone number provided in order to notify the recipient when the ashes are ready to be mailed by registered mail through the United States Postal Service. Unless we are asked to return the cremated remains, the ashes from all bodies studied during the same general period of time will be buried, approximately once a year, in the University’s private cemetery.
The Body Donation Program can return available cremated remains of your body to your family if, at the time the body is received, the request is made and the agreement to do so is signed. It may not be possible to comply if the request is made at a later time.
The Body Bequeathal Agreement form on the back of the next page contains a blank in which your desire concerning the disposition of ashes can be recorded. There is a separate agreement to the conditions placed upon return of available cremated remains. Your survivors will be required to pay for the return of ashes. Under no circumstances will uncremated remains be returned.
Ordinarily the Health Science Center will pay a nominal fee for the mortician’s basic services in preparation and transportation of your body from the funeral home to the Center when death occurs within 100 miles of San Antonio. Costs of services beyond those ordinarily required for anatomical preservation of the body or charges exceeding those normally paid by this institution will be the responsibility of the family or estate. The Body Donation Program will not accept charges for funerals, memorial services, counseling, etc., or for transportation of bodies beyond 100 miles from San Antonio.
If death occurs at a greater distance from San Antonio, expense can sometimes be minimized by arranging at the time for the body to be received by an appropriate institution located closer to the place of death; the Body Donation Program often can assist but cannot guarantee success in this effort. Additionally as noted in the preceding section, the Body Donation Program will require payment for the return of available cremated remains, if that agreement is signed. If you move out of the San Antonio area, your will to this Health Science Center should be revoked and a substitute arrangement made with an approved institution nearer your new home.
Because bodies willed to the school are used mainly in the education of physicians, dentists, and allied health personnel, and to a minor extent in medical research, the usefulness of a body is greatly diminished if all parts are not intact. Therefore bodies from which parts have been removed for transplant purposes or during the course of an autopsy will not be accepted for the Body Donation Program.
Our program is not attempting to compete with other programs that make organs and tissues available for transplantation or with those that promote postmortem studies necessary for the maintenance of quality in medical care; all these efforts offer benefits to society, but since the needs of each program exclude mutual use of the body, the donor or survivors must make a clear choice in how the body will be used. Exceptions to this general rule are that the corneas (but not whole eyes) may be donated to an eye bank (through a separate willing process) and that bodies on which surgery or amputation has been performed will usually be accepted, if the incisions have healed.
The Body Donation Program cannot guarantee acceptance of a donated body. A body will not be acceptable if any of the following conditions are present:
- Organs or parts (other than corneas) have been removed at or following the time of death, such as for transplantation or in an autopsy;
- Decomposition of the body prior to embalming;
- Severe trauma, such as death from drowning, burning, homicide, or motor vehicle accident;
- Death by suicide;
- Open wounds (including recent major surgery) or ulceration of the body;
- Contagious diseases, especially viral, such as virulent herpes, hepatitis, or HIV, but also other drug-resistant infectious diseases, as well as dementias of the Creutzfeldt-Jacob type;
- Excessive obesity, emaciation, or body contractures;
- Ruptured aneurysm; or
- Malignancy that has spread to involve multiple adjacent organs, especially within the abdominal region.
In summary, the Body Donation Program reserves the right to refuse any body which is, in the opinion of the Director, unfit for its use or which for other reasons it cannot use.
Registration of the form of Donating your Body
If you wish to will your body to The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio under the foregoing conditions, complete and return the Body Donation Form to the Body Donation Program at the address shown at the top of this page. One copy will be placed in our files and two registered copies of the form, signed by our personnel, will be returned for your use. You will also be sent an identification card to carry in your wallet, stating your wish that your body be used in our Body Donation Program and giving instructions for notifying us of your death. It is essential that your will forms be registered by our office, since your body may not be accepted if we do not have a record of your will.
If donor forms are not on file with the Body Donation Program at the time of death, the next of kin may make an after death donation of the body to our program. Please contact the Body Donation Program (210-567-3900) to receive instruction to do so.