Body Donation

Whole Body Donation in Massachusetts

Why donate my body?                                                  

Donating your body to a medical school helps provide essential training for medical students. Donating your body to a research institution can help surgeons to develop and improve surgical techniques and can assist in the development of life-saving medicines and surgical procedures.

Whole Body Donation is the least expensive option for the disposition of human remains.

What is required to donate my body?

Whole body donation must generally be pre-arranged by the donor before death. 

There is no maximum age for a body to be accepted, but a variety of conditions may make the body unacceptable. So be sure to have a Plan B. Some of the reasons a body may not be accepted: 

  • Accident or suicide has caused too much damage to the body   
  • Some body parts are not present. Amputation does not always preclude acceptance, however.
  • Extreme obesity.
  • Infectious diseases, such as hepatitis, HIV, tuberculosis
  • The institution already has plenty of bodies.

Who will take my body?

See our  Fall 2011 Newsletter (pdf) or the links above for contact information. See also the article "Giving Life When Life Ends" in that newsletter. 

What happens when they are through with my body?

After the body is used for medical instruction or research, it is cremated and the ashes are buried. Harvard, Tufts, and UMass medical schools use the Pine Hill Cemetery in Tewksbury, Massachusetts.  Or, if the family wishes, the ashes can be returned to them. Medical students have an annual memorial service to honor the people who donated their bodies to further their medication education.

More Information

If you live in other areas of the country, contact your closest medical school. 

Or you may contact the National Anatomical Service (1-800-727-0700), which has been in business since 1975 of procuring and transporting cadavers for various medical schools. NAS is aware of the schools with the greatest need. 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 for shipping. 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.

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 might even be greater than in the U.S.  Tell your family if you wish them to consider this option.

CAUTION Medical schools may be reasonably relied upon to use the donated body for research and educational purposes. If you donate your body to another type of entity, be sure to read all the information about how the body may be used. At present, it is illegal to pay families for bodies, and penalties are severe for any infractions