Body Donation Frequently Asked Questions

How do I donate my body to the Anatomical Gift Registry at the Medical College of Wisconsin?
You must register by submitting a completed form provided on this website or you may also have a packet mailed to you by calling us directly at (414) 955-8261 or emailing us. Our office hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (excluding major holidays). Once we have received your completed form, your name will be added to the registry.
How do I submit the completed forms?
Choose one of the two options below. Mail the completed forms directly to us at:
  1. Anatomical Gift Registry
    Medical College of Wisconsin
    Dept. of Cell Biology, Neurobiology & Anatomy
    8701 Watertown Plank Rd.
    Milwaukee, WI 53226

  2. Fax a copy to (414) 955-6517
Is there a fee to register?
Do I need to pre-register?
We encourage you to do so if possible; however, in cases of sudden death, it is not required.
Are there any costs associated with donating my body?

The Anatomical Gift Registry at the Medical College of Wisconsin is a non-profit program; therefore, we require the donor’s estate or family to pay any administrative fees and costs. There is a single fee, billed to the next of kin (after donation) that covers the following:

  • Transporting remains to the Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Filing the death certificate
  • Cremation permit
  • Cremation

You can find out the current fees by calling us at (414) 955-8261 during regular business hours.

Who should I make aware of my wish to be a body donor?
Your next of kin or designated responsible party should be informed of the arrangements you have made and is also required to sign the donation form. 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 the delivery of the body to the Medical College of Wisconsin. It is more important to have this information readily available on a wallet card or copy of your donation application to parties of interest.
What should my family or next-of-kin do at the time of my death?
Contact the Anatomical Gift Registry at the Medical College of Wisconsin by calling (414) 955-8261, with service available 24 hours a day.
Could my body be turned down for donation?
Yes. Acceptance of an anatomical gift is contingent upon the decision of the Medical College of Wisconsin at the time of death of the donor. Autopsy, embalming, height and weight disproportion, advanced decomposition and history of contagious disease (Hepatitis, Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS) are some of the reasons we cannot accept a donor. The Medical College of Wisconsin reserves the right, at any time, to decline a particular donor. Although most anatomical donations are accepted, to prevent misunderstandings and disappointment after your death, we urge you to have alternative arrangements in place and clearly explained to your family in the event that your donation is declined.
For what purposes will my body be used?
Anatomical donations are essential for training medical professionals and to support clinical research. The Anatomical Gift Registry at the Medical College of Wisconsin maintains and allocates body donations to support a broad spectrum of educational and clinical research endeavors. The program supports the education and training of medical students, residents, postgraduate physicians, and healthcare professionals by preparing bodies, organs and tissues for study, dissection and discovery.
Will my body be accepted if my death occurs out-of-state?
No. In the case of death occurring outside the state of Wisconsin, we recommend that your next-of-kin immediately explore the possibility of donating your body to the nearest body donor program.
Can my family view my body after death at the Medical College of Wisconsin?
No. Viewing of the donor’s body is not possible at the Medical College of Wisconsin. It may be possible to arrange a private viewing and/or visitation at a funeral home, at the family’s expense if coordinated with the Anatomical Gift Registry staff.
Can my family have a funeral before my body is brought to MCW?
Generally, yes. However, the funeral director MUST first contact our office. Failure to follow the explicit directions of the Anatomical Gift Registry in such cases could prevent the intended donation from occurring.
Will MCW conduct research as to the cause of my death and provide a report?
The Medical College of Wisconsin’s Anatomical Gift Registry does not perform autopsies, determine the cause of death, nor provide a report regarding the donor’s cause of death. At the time of death, the attending physician must sign a death certificate, unless the matter falls under the jurisdiction of the medical examiner. The death certificate will document the cause of death.
How long might the studies take?
The Anatomical Gift Registry may use each body for up to three years, possibly longer, for educational purposes.
How would my family or responsible party obtain a death certificate?
A death certificate is prepared and mailed to the attending physician for signature. Once signed, it is returned to the Anatomical Gift Registry to be filed. The certificate is then filed with the local registrar in the county where the death occurred. Certified copies of the death certificate can then be purchased through that local registrar.
Will there be a memorial service?
Yes. The medical students organize an annual memorial service where family and friends are invited to attend. With genuine respect and admiration of the selfless donors, who were their teachers; the students, faculty and staff feel grateful to be able to pay tribute, meet and say thank you to the donor’s families and friends. The ceremony is held at the Medical College of Wisconsin Campus.
When available, can my loved ones claim the ashes for private burial?
Yes. Please refer to donor form for more information.
Can ashes be exhumed after being buried?
Ashes buried in our cemetery plot will not be exhumed under any circumstances or situation.
Who may bequeath their body to the Medical College of Wisconsin's Anatomical Gift Registry?
Any person 18 years of age or over may bequeath their body to medical science.
Is age a consideration in a body donation?
No. Age is not an exclusion for body donation at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Is the donation of my body to MCW legally binding or can my family next-of-kin or representative go against my wishes?
The execution of a body donation form is that of a will and is legally binding. However, if at the time of death, your family or next-of-kin wishes to make other arrangements, it is the policy of the Medical College of Wisconsin's Anatomical Gift Registry to comply with the wishes of your loved ones.
Does the MCW Anatomical Gift Registry pay a fee to those that donate?
No. The Uniform Anatomical Gift Law makes no provision for buying donated bodies.
What is the procedure in the event I should unexpectedly expire outside a medical facility (hospital, care center, hospice)?
In the event a death occurs in this manner, always notify the local police department first, then the body donor program.
What should my next-of-kin do if my body is declined for donation?
Your responsible party should proceed with your secondary plan. It is the donor’s estate, next -of -kin or authorized person’s responsibility to make final arrangements if the intended donor's body is declined.
If I have additional questions whom may I contact?
For non-emergency questions, please call our office during regular business hours at (414) 955-8261 and an Anatomical Gift Registry representative will be happy to assist you.