Click on a question to scroll to appropriate answer.

Who may donate?
Can I donate a body for which I’m responsible?
How do I go about donating my body to the health sciences?
Do I need a will or an attorney to donate my body?
Will there be any costs or financial obligations to my survivors?
What physical or medical conditions would not allow me to donate?
May I donate organs and tissues for transplantation?
Should I make anyone aware of my decision to donate my body?
Who should be notified at the time of my death?
Are there religious considerations?
How does a donor’s family obtain a death certificate?
How will my body be used?
Will the person studying a body be aware of its identity?
Where will the body be used?
When will my body be used?
Must I submit general information about my state of health?
What happens to the remains after my body is used for medical study?
Can the remains be returned to a family member?
Will I be able to have funeral services?
Do Human Gift Registries provide “funeral” services?
Do most bodies utilized for the health sciences come from donations?
Can I change my mind and retract my donation?
If I move, should I notify the Human Gift Registry?
May I sell my body to science?
May my family or I make bequests or gifts to honor the deceased donor?

Please call or e-mail the Human Gift Registry (see the Contact Us section) with any further questions you may have.

Who may donate?

Any person 18 years of age or older may become a whole body donor by completing and submitting a Donor Registration Form. In addition, a body may be donated after death by the family or by others legally responsible for its disposition. The forms needed are available on the Human Gift Registry website here. Donated bodies must be acceptable for use in teaching or research; conditions which may prevent acceptance of a donated body include the following: autopsy, major trauma, obesity, recent surgeries, multiple amputations, sepsis, infectious diseases such as AIDS, hepatitis, herpes, blood infections etc., and treatment with therapeutic radionuclides. The Human Gift Registry is under no obligation to accept any gift and may, at its discretion, decline a donation. top

Can I donate a body for which I’m responsible?

Yes. If a donor form was not completed before death, a family member or another person who is legally responsible for the body may donate it by calling the Human Gift Registry and completing a Relative Release Form. It is critical that the Registry be contacted immediately after death. Donated bodies must be acceptable for use in teaching or research; conditions which may prevent acceptance of a donated body include the following: autopsy, major trauma, obesity, recent surgeries, multiple amputations, sepsis, infectious diseases such as AIDS, hepatitis, herpes, blood infections etc., and treatment with therapeutic radionuclides. The Human Gift Registry is under no obligation to accept any gift and may, at its discretion, decline a donation.top

How do I go about donating my body to the health sciences?

The donation process is very simple. At any time prior to death a Donor Registration Form may be filled out, signed, witnessed, and returned to one of the Human Gift Registries. A donor card is returned to the donor after processing. After death, the appropriate Human Gift Registry is notified, and a death certificate is obtained by the person responsible for the body. The Human Gift Registry will then make arrangements to transport the body to the appropriate location. Please see the Donate section of this web site for more information. top

Do I need a will or an attorney to donate my body?

No. All legal requirements for bequeathing your body are fulfilled by completing the donation forms. It is important that you inform your family, minister and/or physician of this action and of your intention to donate your body. You should keep a copy of your donor forms with your important records. top

Will there be any costs or financial obligations to my survivors?

No. The cost for reasonable transportation, embalming, cremation, and interment in prescribed facilities will be covered by the Human Gift Registry, within the limits set by the West Virginia State Anatomical Board. Transportation costs are limited to a 150 air mile radius from the site of donation. Click here for a map of the WVU donation area. The Human Gift Registry will cover the cost of returning ashes to the appropriate recipient, (upon written request) but will not pay any additional expenses incurred after the release of the ashes. top

What physical or medical conditions would not allow me to donate?

Certain physical and medical conditions can prevent a body from being accepted by the Human Gift Registry. These conditions include: organ donation, autopsy, obesity, major trauma, recent surgery, certain contagious diseases or treament with therapeutic radionuclides. Please call or e-mail the Registry regarding a specific condition that might preclude a donation. top

May I donate organs and tissues for transplantation?

It is possible to be registered both as an organ donor and a whole body donor. However, the Human Gift Registries are allowed to accept whole body donation only and do not accept bodies from which organs (except corneas) have been removed. With few exceptions, organ and tissue donation at death will prevent whole body donation for medical education. We endorse and encourage tissue and organ donation for use in living recipients where possible, but this requires a separate action by donors. Persons who wish to donate organs for transplant purposes should indicate this preference on their driver's license application and may wish to register with the Pittsburgh Center for Organ Recovery and Education (Serving WV) (800) 366-6777 or the Kentucky Organ Affiliates at (800) 525-3456. top

Should I make anyone aware of my decision to donate my body?

Definitely. You should discuss your wishes with members of your family. Also your intention to donate should be known to your physician and copies of donation forms should be placed in your medical records and with important personal papers. Communicating your wish to donate to those closest to you will enable donation to be completed immediately upon death. Time is very important. If your relatives are not informed in advance, the reading of a will or discovery of donation papers may come too late for your donation to be accepted. top

Who should be notified at the time of my death?

One of the Human Gift Registries of the West Virginia State Anatomical Board should be notified immediately at the time of death of a donor. See the Contact Us section of this website for phone numbers. top

Are there religious considerations?

The beliefs of most religious groups are consistent with the donation and use of one's body for the health sciences education and research. Donation of one's body is morally and legally justified. Such a gift benefits the lives of other human beings and is an expression of the deepest humanitarian and moral principles of most religions. If you have any questions, you should consult your religious advisor or lodge official. top

How does a donor’s family obtain a death certificate?

One may obtain a certified copy of a death certificate by contacting West Virginia State Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, 1800 Washington St., East, Charleston, WV 25305 or call (304) 558-2931. Also, certified copies of death certificates may be obtained from the county court house in the county where the death occurred. top

How will my body be used?

Bodies are used in the training of students of health sciences. This includes not just doctors but also nurses, dentists, and physical therapists. The body is used in teaching internal anatomy and function. Bodies are always treated with dignity and respect, and all usage is regulated by the highest ethical standards. Only persons authorized by the West Virginia State Anatomical Board have access to this resource; these include health sciences professionals and students preparing for those professions. All those in contact with the body are thoroughly trained in the fundamental ethical and legal requirements of using human anatomical material in education and research. top

Will the person studying a body be aware of its identity?

No. Identity of donors is strictly confidential. top

Where will the body be used?

The body donation program in West Virginia was developed to serve educational and research needs of the state and region. Most bodies will be used at one of the three major medical institutions in West Virginia (WVU, Marshall and WVSOM). Some may be used at other locations affiliated with these schools or served by their faculty, or by approved programs in other states or countries that have need for them. top

When will my body be used?

Donated bodies may be used any time after receipt of the body; this may occur within a few days of death, or may not occur for several years. top

Must I submit general information about my state of health?

No, although information about a donor's health and cause of death when available is beneficial to the Human Gift Registry and enhances the educational uses of the donation. Appropriate questions will be asked after death to assure that the body is acceptable for use by the Human Gift Registry. top

What happens to the remains after my body is used for medical study?

Donors remains are always cremated after use. Ashes may be returned to the family if requested at the time of donation. Most commonly ashes are placed in an appropriate repository near the donation site. Ashes of WVU donors are interred in a Memorial Vault at the Health Sciences Center, from Marshall donors in a Mausoleum in Spring Hill Cemetery (Huntington), and those from WV School of Osteopathic Medicine in Rosewood Cemetery Mausoleum (Lewisburg). top

Can the remains be returned to a family member?

If a donor prefers to have ashes returned to the family or a designated recipient (i.e. a family member, funeral director, pastor, etc.), the Human Gift Registry must be advised in writing at the time of donor registration. If donation was not made prior to death ashes still may be returned to the next-of-kin if requested (in writing) at the time of donation. Returning ashes is not a legal obligation of the Human Gift Registry, however, reasonable efforts will be made to comply with requests based upon our current guidelines. top

Will I be able to have funeral services?

Whole body donation in West Virginia precludes the possibility of having a funeral service with the body present. It is appropriate and not uncommon to hold a private memorial or religious services without the body present. Arrangements and costs for such services are the responsibility of the family. In addition, the Human Gift Registry has an annual memorial service to recognize donors and their families. top

Do Human Gift Registries provide “funeral” services?

No, however, a memorial service honoring all those persons whose bodies were received during the year by the WVU Human Gift Registry is held annually at West Virginia University's Health Sciences Center. Family members and friends of donors are invited to attend. Following death, donors names will be permanently inscribed on certificates, and bound in memorial volumes housed in the West Virginia University Health Sciences Center, where family members may view them. The two other West Virginia HUman Gift Registries conducts separate annual memorial services for donors to their institution during the previous year. Please visit the Memorial section of this website. top

Do most bodies utilized for the health sciences come from donations?

Yes. Only small percentages are unclaimed bodies. The continuing cooperation and understanding of the general public, clergy, members of civic organizations and members of medical, dental, legal and mortuary professions in West Virginia provide essential support for this program and are deeply appreciated. top

Can I change my mind and retract my donation?

The donation forms you completed are proper legal documents, so if you change your mind about the donation, you must notify in writing the appropriate Human Gift Registry. Upon making this decision, state in a signed written document to the appropriate Registry that you wish to revoke your earlier donation. Please see the Donate Section of this website. top

If I move, should I notify the Human Gift Registry?

Yes. Your donation via the West Virginia State Anatomical Board is valid and enforceable with the state or within 150 air miles of one of the three Human Gift Registry donor sites (Morgantown, Huntington or Lewisburg). Click here for a map of the WVU donation area. If you move from West Virginia or beyond this defined area, you should make arrangements (new forms) for the donation of your body to a Human Gift Registry nearest your new location. Should a donor die while traveling in another part of the country or world, the family should contact the nearest medical school. Conditions of donation would then be regulated by policies of that institution or donor program. In such cases, both the high cost of transportation and the deterioration of the body with time render its use at the originally designated medical school impractical. Please click here for other body donation programs in the United States. top

May I sell my body to science?

No. State and Federal laws prohibit the sale of bodies and parts thereof. The possibility of receiving compensation for bodies or parts is a rumor which persists even today, all over the country. No one can legally buy or sell tissues, bodies or organs for profit. Your donation should be made in the spirit of a truly priceless gift for mankind and the advancement of health sciences. top

May my family or I make bequests or gifts to honor the deceased donor?

Yes. Bequests or gifts in memory of a donor can significantly enhance the quality of teaching and research in health sciences. Contact the Human Gift Registry at the appropriate institution for additional information. top