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We appreciate your interest in the UC San Diego Body Donation Program. Most people qualify to be a whole body donor. Review our frequently asked questions to learn more about the program.

How can I leave my body to medical science?

Forms authorizing the donation of the body can be obtained by calling 858-534-4536 or writing:

Body Donation Program
UC San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive, Mail Code 0627
San Diego, CA 92093-0627

Who may serve as a witness to my donation?

Anyone 18 years or older, preferably someone expected to be a survivor, may act as a witness. Two witness signatures are required on our donation forms.

Can I donate someone else's body, such as my wife's or my husband's?

An attorney in fact (person who has legally been given Power of Attorney) for the donor may be able to sign donation papers during the donors life. Alternately, a spouse, registered domestic partner, or next of kin can make a donation after death.

Should the donor inform someone of the bequest? Is it necessary to include my body donation in my will?

Yes. Your survivor or designated responsible party should be informed of the arrangements you have made. You may also choose to inform your family, doctor and attorney of your wishes. You do not need to include the bequest in your will, as a will may not be read in time for delivery of the body to the university. It is more important to have these instructions readily available on a wallet donation card or donation form and have your survivors be aware of your intentions.

What arrangement should I make if I am admitted into a hospital, move to a retirement community, a nursing home or any type of care facility prior to my death?

If you are admitted into a hospital, move to a retirement community, a nursing home or any type of care facility, it is recommended that a copy of the donation form be placed on your chart or care plan. When death occurs, the program should be notified immediately by calling 858-534-4536. Arrangements will then be made to receive the body into our program.

Will any payment be received for the body?

No payment may be made in connection with a body donation. This policy is in accordance with State laws, and all institutions accepting human remains must comply with it. However, by donating your body you avoid all funeral or burial costs.

If a bequest is made, and the donor has a change of mind later, can the gift be rescinded?

Yes, if the request is made in writing by the donor.

What is the procedure upon the death of the donor? What if I should die on a weekend or holiday?

The next of kin, executor, or hospital personnel should call the Body Donation Program office at (858) 534-4536. This same number should be called on nights, weekends, and holidays.

Will your department accept my body if I die out-of-state?

We will accept donors from California. Deaths that occur outside of California are accepted on a case by case basis. If death occurs outside of California we can provide the information of a body donation program that serves the state the death occurs within.

What expenses are involved upon the death of the donor?

UC San Diego will assume all transportation costs to deliver a donor to UC San Diego. The only cost to the family or the estate is the cost of the Death Certificate.

Is it possible for an ambulance service or even my family to deliver my body to the Medical School?

No, UC San Diego requires that a trained funeral professional accompany the donor when delivery occurs at the Medical School. This service is provided by UC San Diego. All donors are transported in a professional, ethical manner in vehicles equipped with proper mortuary transportation systems.

Are there any conditions that would invalidate my donation?

Extreme obesity, or a history of contagious diseases (Hepatitis B or C, HIV, CJD, untreated tuberculosis, etc.) are the major reasons we cannot accept a donor.

Can a person be too old to donate his or her body?

No. Age is not a consideration in body donation. Only the conditions described above may make a donation unacceptable.

Will my body be used for teaching or research?

Most bodies are used to teach medical and pharmacy students, and in physician continuing education programs. A small number of bodies are used to teach students in allied health fields such as nursing and physical therapy. Some bodies are used for research or by surgeons to study new operative techniques.

What is meant on the donation form by "permanent preservation" of an organ or part for teaching purposes?

An organ or part from a body may be so unusual (such as an abnormally developed, or diseased organ or part), or so useful for teaching purposes that it is desirable to preserve it so that more than one group of students may study it. Such an organ can be "plastinated" so that it may be used over and over without deterioration.

Will my family receive a report of your findings?

No. We do not conduct autopsies and no reports are prepared. Bodies are used anonymously in medical education and research and no record of pathological findings is kept by students.

What about autopsies before donation?

Autopsied bodies are only accepted on a case by case basis because the value for anatomical study of an autopsied body is limited.

What is the final disposition following the study?

After studies are completed - generally a period of one to three years - the remains are cremated. Cremains are scattered at sea. Cremains are not returned for private disposition, and no notification of final disposition will be sent to the family.

Is there a memorial service for the donors?

Yes. Medical students at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine conduct an annual memorial service commemorating donors.

Can I donate my body and be an organ or tissue donor?

Yes, we work directly with Lifesharing and the San Diego Eye Bank to allow both donations to occur. If you are outside of San Diego County, we are not able to accept organ and tissue donors.

How does my family get death certificates when death occurs?

The death certificate generally takes about 14 working days from the date of death to be registered with the state. The Body Donation Program coordinates with the donor’s doctor to take care of the registration process electronically. Once it is registered, the family of the donor can order those from the Health Department in the county of death. The Health Department issues the death certificates. The State of California currently charges $24 for each certified copy. It is best to consult an accountant or attorney to understand how many death certificates might be needed. It is important to note that the Health Department will not have record of the death until the death certificate is registered. The family can contact the Body Donation Program office to check the status of the registration process after 10 working days from the date of death. It is also important to note that a death certificate will not automatically be sent to the family. The Body Donation Program does not have a copy of the death certificate to distribute to families. Those can only be obtained by contacting the Health Department in the county of death.

Does my family need to contact Social Security after my death?

Yes, the family should contact Social Security. They are officially notified through the Electronic Death Registration System, but that can take up to 6 weeks.