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Frequently Asked Questions

Q.Why are human bodies donated to the Texas A&M Health Science Center’s College of Medicine?
A.They are an indispensable aid in medical education 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 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 healthcare practitioners.

Q.Is donating one's body difficult or complicated?
A.No, it is a very simple and easy process. One copy of the Bequest Form must be completed, signed, witnessed by two people and returned to the College of Medicine.

Q.What procedure should be followed upon my death?
A.If possible, contact Callaway-Jones Funeral Home at 979-822-3717, Memorial Funeral Home at 979-823-8125, or Trevino-Smith Funeral Home at 979-822-2424. Otherwise contact a local funeral home, as a funeral director must be contacted. The funeral director is responsible for filing the proper papers with the Board of Health. He must secure the cause of death with the attending physician's signature, get vital family information, and information as to the disposition of the body. He must also do a light embalming since the time required to file proper papers and delivery of the body to the Anatomical Board may be several hours to a day or more.

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 College of Medicine 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, who may be concerned, of their intentions and of their plans to make a donation of their body.

Q.What is the purpose of your donation?
A.Your donation relieves the next-of-kin of making a decision of this magnitude under the handicap of grief. Your donation protects both the College of Medicine and your survivors and simplifies the procedure at the time of death.

Q.Can the next of kin donate the body of a recently deceased relative to medical science?
A.Yes. The person or persons legally entitled to the custody of the body may make this donation by signing a Donation of Decedent form.

Q.What if I have expressed a wish to donate my body but neglect to sign the Bequest Form before death occurs?
A.Your survivors can carry out your wishes by immediately notifying the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics of your death and then signing a Donation of Decedent form.

Q.Should the bequeath of my body be made a provision of my will?
A.It may be, although, this is not necessary. If provisions are made only in your will, the body may not be usable by the Anatomical Board since there is usually a considerable delay before a will is probated. Therefore, we request that the bequest form be signed by the donor and two competent witnesses. It is strongly suggested that the individual have a pre-need arrangement with the funeral director of his/her choice.

Q.Must a person be over 21 years of age to sign a donation form?
A.Yes.

Q.Are there any restrictions on the condition of bodies accepted?
A.Most bodies are acceptable. However, bodies willed to the College of Medicine are used mainly in the education of physicians, and to a minor extent in medical research, the value of a body is greatly diminished if all parts are not intact. Therefore, bodies from which parts have been removed for transplant purposes or during the course of an autopsy will not be accepted for the Willed Body Program. Our program is not attempting to compete with other programs that make organs and tissues available for transplantation or with those that promote postmortem studies necessary for the maintenance of quality in medical care; all these efforts offer benefits to society, but since the needs of each program exclude mutual use of the body, the donor or survivors must make a clear choice in how the body will be used. Exceptions to this general rule are that the eyes may be donated to any eye bank (through a separate willing process) and that bodies on which surgery or amputation has been performed will usually be accepted.

The Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics cannot guarantee acceptance of a willed body. A body will not be acceptable if any of the following conditions are present:

  1. Organs or parts (other than eyes) have been removed at or following the time of death, such as for transplantation or in an autopsy;
  2. Decomposition of the body prior to embalming;
  3. Severe trauma, such as death from drowning, burning, homicide, or motor vehicle accident;
  4. Open wounds or ulceration of the body; bed sores
  5. Contagious diseases, especially viral, such as virulent herpes, hepatitis, or some of the dementias;
  6. Excessive obesity, emaciation or body contractures (fetal position)
  7. Jaundice

In summary, the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics reserves the right to refuse any body that is, in the opinion of the Department, unfit for use.

Q.May I alter, cancel or revoke my donation if I change my mind?
A.Yes, at any time by writing the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics.

Q.Will I or my family be paid for my body?
A.No. Medical schools are forbidden by law to purchase a person's body.

Q.Are bodies acceptable if the eyes have been donated to the Eye Bank?
A.Yes. However, the removal of other organs may reduce the value of the body for medical education.

Q.How long is required for the scientific study?
A.In most instances there is a time lapse of about two to four years between the arrival of the body at the College of Medicine and completion of the study.

Q.What if my death occurs away from home?
A.An identification card, stating that the bequest has been made, is provided by the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics. This card should be carried by you at all times. Please note that possible mileage charges outside 200-mile radius of College Station.

Q.What happens if I wish for the College of Medicine to return ashes but they cannot find me?
A.The College of Medicine will try its best to locate you.  It is critical for you to keep your contact information up to date with us.  Should we not be able to contact you, the ashes will be stored for an additional 12 months then scattered or buried. 

Q.What happens when your studies are concluded?
A.The remains will be cremated. If requested in writing by the donor at the time the Bequest is received or by the closest next of kin at the time of Donation, the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics will return the ashes to the surviving relatives for final disposition. There is a modest charge of $100.00 for this service. When we have completed our studies the family will be notified in writing via certified mail; when we have received the money order made payable to Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine the ashes will be returned to family via certified mail. If the ashes are returned to the family, the expense for the burial of the ashes is that of the surviving relatives. If no such written request is made, the ashes will be buried or scattered in a local Bryan/College Station cemetery at the expense of the Department.

Q.What happens if I die while outside the State of Texas?
A.A medical school in that state should be contacted, as many are willing to accept donations.

For further information, please contact:

Tami Seydler
Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics
Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine
8447 State Highway 47
Bryan, Texas 77808-3260
Phone: 979-436-0316

Last edited by: chea 07/01/2014

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