Answers To Questions About Body Donation After Death for Medical Education and Research

Q. Why are human bodies donated to the Bureau of Anatomical Services or one of its member institutions?
A. They are an indispensable aid in medical teaching and research. The basis of all medical knowledge is human anatomy; human anatomy can be learned only by a study of the human body. Without this study there could be no doctors, no surgery, no alleviation of disease or repair of injury.

Q. Is this a normal and acceptable procedure?
A. Definitely yes.

Q. Are there religious objectives to donating one's body to medical science?
A. The practice is approved, and even encouraged, by Catholic, Protestant and Reformed Jewish religious leaders.

Q. Is there an urgent need for body donations?
A. The need is great and will be further increased by the demand for more doctors, dentists, nurses and other health service practitioners. A lack of anatomical subjects would necessitate a curtailment of vitally important teaching and research programs and thus have an adverse effect on the health and welfare of the population.

Q . Is donating one's body difficult or complicated?
A. No, it is a very simple and easy procedure. One needs only to complete a donation form which requires a few items of information, the donor's signature and the signature of two witnesses.

Q. Can a donation take place against the wishes of the spouse or next of kin?
A. Under the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, your wishes take legal precedence over those of your next of kin. However, the BAS is not inclined to accept a body under conditions in which there is an objection to donation or dissension among members of the family who are legally responsible for final disposition of the body. Donors are advised to notify all persons likely to be concerned of their intentions and plans to make a donation of their body. In this way, any difference of opinion can be resolved in advance of the time of death when decisions must be made in haste and under the handicap of grief.

Q. Can the next of kin donate the body of a recently deceased relative to medical science?
A. Our sister institutions within the State of Louisiana (LSU School of Medicine New Orleans and Tulane University School of Medicine) do allow for body donations by next of kin. The policy at LSU Health Sciences Center-Shreveport does NOT allow for next of kin body donation.

Q . Must a person be of legal age to sign a donation form?
A. Yes, a donor and all witnesses must be at least 18 years of age and there is no maximum age limit.

Q . How are bodies that are donated utilized?
A. Many bodies are used to teach medical, dental, nursing and allied health students basic human anatomy. Some are used by the faculty and residents to develop new surgical or diagnostic procedures. Others are utilized for Post Graduate course and continuing education for practicing Health Care providers. This is not comparable to an autopsy. No reports of any kind are furnished to the donor's family.

Q . May I alter, cancel or revoke my donation if I change my mind?
A. Yes, at any time by notifying the Willed Body Program at LSU Health Sciences Center-Shreveport in writing of your desire to cancel your donation.

Q . Will I or my family be paid for my body?
A. No. Payment to individuals for an anatomical donation is not permitted by federal and state laws/regulations.

Q. Will signing the back of my driver's license ensure that my remains are given to your program? 
A. No. Signing the back of your driver's license will not get your whole body donated to science. Your signature on the back of your driver's license allows medical personnel to harvest designated organs from your body for transplant purposes, but usually under optimum conditions only.

Q . Are bodies acceptable if the eyes or organs have been donated to other agencies?
A. Our Willed Body Program allows for donation of eyes but not other organs.   Eyes can be donated to other agencies, but it is the donor's responsibility to contact and register with those agencies. The telephone numbers for the Northwest Louisiana Eye is listed below:
Louisiana Eye Bank:  318-222-7999

Q. Are there any restrictions on the condition of bodies accepted?  
A. Normally, most bodies are acceptable. However we are unable to accept the remains of persons who die when an infectious disease present, such as AIDS, hepatitis, sepsis, etc. Remains will also be refused if an autopsy or embalming has been performed, or should the Director of Anatomical Services or their alternate representative deem the body unsuitable. You should have an alternative plan for the disposition of your body in the event it is not accepted by the LSU Health Sciences Center Willed Body Program.

Q. What is the time period before utilization of the body is completed?
 A. This will vary markedly according to the medical education and research. In some instances, donations will be utilized relatively quickly where others may require up to three or more years.

Q. What if my death occurs away from my place of residence?
A. An identification card, stating that the bequest has been made, is provided by the Willed Body Program. This card should be carried in your purse or wallet at all times (the donor would be wise to note on the card the name of the person(s) to be notified in the event of sudden and unexpected death).

Q. What if my death occurs in another state?
A. Your family could attempt to donate your remains to a similar donor program in that state. Or, if it is still your family's wish to honor your original donation of your remains to our Willed Body Program, they may do so, but will incur the transportation charges to have your remains returned to Louisiana.

Q. What if I should move to another state? 
A. The original bequest should be revoked in writing and a substitute arrangement be made with a similar program nearest your new home unless your family estate or survivors or opt to honor your original request in which the family will pay the transportation charges to transport your remains to Louisiana.

Q. Must I be a resident of Louisiana to donate my body?
A. As of January 1994, the Bureau discontinued taking new donations from outside the State of Louisiana. However, a prospective donor who lives outside of Louisiana, if the family agrees to pay transportation, the remains may be accepted by the Willed Body Program. Out of State agreement must be filled out in which the person responsible accepts the payment of transportation. (Copies of this form are available upon request.)

Q . May a customary or traditional type of funeral service be held prior to the transfer of the body to the Bureau for Anatomical Services?
A. We do not recommend that a traditional funeral service be held. If the family wishes to conduct a service, we suggest that they hold a memorial service.

Q. What organization should my family contact to request a death certificate*?
 A. For insurance and banking purposes, a certified death certificate* is required and can be obtained from our Director of Anatomical Services (for a additional fee)  
* Allow eight weeks or longer from the time of death for the death certificate to be processed.

Q . What happens when the utilization of the donation is concluded?  
A. The remains will be cremated. If requested (in writing) to do so, our Department will return the ashes, in a suitable container, to the surviving relatives. If no such request is made, the ashes will be buried in a cemetery plot designated for the with an appropriate ceremony.

Contact Us

Department of Cellular Biology & Anatomy
LSU Health Shreveport
1501 Kings Hwy
Shreveport, LA 71103

Phone: (318) 675-5312

Body Donor FAQs

Cellular Biology and Anatomy