Donating Your Body

Leaving Your Body to Science

Donating your body to a medical school helps provide essential training for medical students and can assist in the development of life-saving medicines and surgical procedures. In addition, whole body donation is the least expensive option for the disposition of human remains. 

Requirements to Donate Your Body

Arrangements for body donations must be made while you are still alive. There is no maximum age for a body to be accepted, but a variety of conditions may make the body unacceptable. For example:: 

  • Accident or suicide has caused too much damage to the body   
  • Infectious diseases, such as hepatitis, HIV, tuberculosis, COVID-19
  • Extreme obesity or edema, which makes body-handing difficult, or bedsores
  • Donating tissues or organs may disqualify the body for donation 
  • The institution already has plenty of bodies

Regulations and registration forms of San Francisco Bay Area institutions accepting bodies are available from: 

Organ Donations

To be part of the solution for the ongoing need for donated organs and tissues, take the following steps to become a donor after your death.

California Organ Donor Registry

Register at Donate Life California. After your death, medical personnel will search the state donor registry and easily locate your wish to be a donor. You may also register on the California DMV website.

Include Organ Donation in Your Advance Care Directive

In addition to signing up with the California state organ donor registry and using your driver’s license to indicate that you want to be an organ donor, it’s a good idea to include your desire to donate in your important estate planning documents, especially your advance health care directive.

California has taken steps to increase its number of organ donors. Organ donation is the default choice in California’s AHCD: if you don’t  wish to donate, you must indicate so.

Brain Donations

The purpose of a brain donation is to help researchers understand and develop preventative therapies and possibly cure Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

Local universities endeavoring to find better treatment options include:

You can also learn more at The Brain Support Network.

Other Willed Body Information

National Anatomical Service

If you live outside of the San Francisco Bay Area, you may contact the National Anatomical Service, which has been in the business since 1975 of procuring and transporting cadavers for various medical schools. NAS is aware of the schools with the greatest need. Call them anywhere in the U.S. at 1-800-727-0700. Headquarters are in New York and they cover the phone 24 hours a day. Arrangements for refrigeration will be made by the service with a local mortuary until transportation is provided. In some cases the medical school pays storage and transportation costs. In other cases, the family may be asked to pay a fee up to ~ $600, depending on the distance to be shipped.

For those who live in a state with no medical school (Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming), or in states where all medical schools require prior enrollment (Arizona, Nebraska, Nevada, South Carolina, and Wisconsin), the National Anatomical Service will be of benefit to next-of-kin wishing to make a body donation. You might advise relatives of this option in case the medical school of your choice is in no need at the time of your death.

Shipping Cadavers

International shipping of scientific cadavers is not allowed. But bodies can be shipped privately if placed in a hermetically sealed container. If you should die while abroad, your family might arrange for a medical school overseas to accept your body, as their need for bodies there may even be greater than in the U.S.