Gift of Body Program

About the program
The donation of one’s body is a historically accepted way to contribute meaningfully to the essential advance of medical science. The University of Missouri in Columbia receives bodies donated by people who want to advance scientific investigation and education of young doctors. The majority of donated bodies are used for education of students training to be doctors, nurses, and other health professionals. Bodies are also used by physicians and researchers who are involved in more specific anatomical studies in medical specialties such as orthopedic surgery, otolaryngology, and plastic surgery. Once received by the medical school, a body is preserved by embalming and remains in the anatomy programs for up to two years or longer. Following use of the body, the body is cremated and may either be buried at the Memorial Park Cemetery in the University of Missouri plot or, if we have instructions on file, the cremated remains may be returned to a family member (or other designated individual) for disposition by them.  

Enrollment Procedures
Anyone of sound mind and over the age of eighteen years may enroll to donate his or her body to the program. There is no cost associated with enrollment. The procedure for enrolling in the Gift of Body Program involves completing the donation forms, and sending one original signed copy to the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences (address below). The second copy is to be retained for the donor's own records. A brief personal history form is also to be completed and sent with the donation form. If an individual or his/her next of kin wishes to have their cremated remains returned for local disposition, that information should accompany the donation forms returned to our office or should be included in a note to our office at or following the time of death. Any questions concerning the Gift of Body Program should be directed to the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences (see below). Once an individual enrolls in the program, their records remain on file in the office of the Department of Pathology & Anatomical Sciences. Completion of the enrollment form does not constitute a contract, but rather an indication of the desire to contribute their body if all conditions are acceptable. If an individual changes his or her decision to participate in the program, written notice to the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences will cause their donation to be canceled and their file will be destroyed at that time. Upon entering the program, donors receive a wallet card that indicates they have enrolled in the Gift of Body Program. After death, family members generally notify the Gift of Body Program, often by calling the number on the wallet card. The contact information on the card matches the contact information below.  

Donation Procedures
At the time of death, the person in charge of the donor's affairs should select and notify a funeral director to arrange transportation to Columbia and any other professional services needed or desired. The funeral director should then contact the Gift of Body Program (see below) directly to obtain proper transportation protocols. The cost of transportation and the funeral director's professional service fees must be borne by the family or estate (see donation expenses below).

Donation Expenses
Costs related to donation that must be paid from the estate of the donor or by the next of kin include:

1. Completion and filing of the Missouri Department of Health Certificate of Death by the appropriate authority (hospital or funeral home).

2. Transportation of the body by a funeral home or transport service to Heartland Cremation & Burial Society in Columbia.  Heartland Cremation is contracted with the University of Missouri to complete the elbalming process for our donors, therefore the donors will always go there first. Once the embalming is completed the donors will be brought to the University.

Donation Requirements
Due to educational requirements, it is essential that the body be intact at the time of donation. Thus, we cannot accept a body that has been autopsied or from which major organs have been removed for donation after death. We do encourage those wishing to donate their organs to call the Midwest Transplant Network at 1-800-366-6791 or on-line at the MTN Website. One exception involves donation of eyes. A body from which the eyes have been removed will be accepted in our program. All arrangements for eye donation must be made in advance through the proper agency.

In general the only conditions that cause a rejection for a body donation are: (1) body not intact (exception of eye donation), (2) presence of a communicable disease (tuberculosis, AIDS, hepatitis, etc.) or any bacterial infections, (3) Maximum weight of 200lbs which is based on an average height, (4) body not processed in a timely manner following death and (5) any recent surgeries resulting in large incisions that have not completely healed. Occasionally there are times that our program is full and we are unable to accept donors.  If we are unable to honor your donation it will be the family’s responsibilities to make other arrangements. Completion of the enrollment form does not constitute a contract with the University of Missouri, but rather an indication of an individual’s desire to contribute their remains to the MU School of Medicine.  Please understand that the final acceptance of a donation is dependent on the body being in a condition suitable for use by our program.  Thus, while nearly all bodies donated to the program are accepted, this acceptance cannot be guaranteed.  Please make family members aware of this, as it will alleviate distress if your body is not accepted by the program.
A request that is often made by the next-of-kin following donation is that a report be made of the physical condition of the deceased. The only way such a report can be made is by a qualified pathologist following a post-mortem examination of the body. Such a post-mortem exam or autopsy disqualifies a body for use in our program; interested parties may contact the Boone and Callaway Counties Medical Examiner.

Contact Information

For additional information regarding Gift of Body, please feel free to contact:

Scott Maddux, Ph.D., Director
Gift of Body Program
Department of Pathology & Anatomical Sciences
University of Missouri-Columbia Medical Center
M263 Medical Science Building
One Hospital Drive
Columbia, MO 65212

Shannon Wetzel, Coordinator
Gift of Body Program
Department of Pathology & Anatomical Sciences
University of Missouri-Columbia Medical Center
M263 Medical Science Building
One Hospital Drive
Columbia, MO 65212

phone: 573-882-2288


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