Anatomical Gift Registry - Frequently Asked Questions
The Medical College of Wisconsin's Anatomical Gift Registry welcomes any questions from potential donors and their loved ones about the body donation process. Below you will find answers to our most common questions. Please contact the program directly if there is anything further you would like us to discuss with you.
General Body Donation Questions
What are the benefits of donating your body to science?
As a body donor within the AGR, you will enable the advancement of medical practices and biomedical knowledge among medical trainees. This includes serving as an unparalleled educator teaching human anatomy, empathy, and humility to physicians-in-training. Donors may also serve to train current physicians and medical personnel in state-of-the-art medical practices. Additionally, donors may be involved in research investigating mechanisms of disease and injury, developing surgical techniques, or community education programs. In considering a donation to our program, you have the potential to help advance medicine and healthcare for future generations.
What prevents a person from donating their body to science?
While we make every effort to honor a donor’s wish to donate, we must review medical history prior to acceptance of remains by the AGR. Our team will run a quick screening via the healthcare professional of registered donors upon passing to ensure donors are fit for our program. We cannot accept donors who are under 18 years of age. Furthermore, we cannot accept donors who test positive for blood-borne pathogens such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, tuberculosis, sepsis, MRSA, COVID-19, etc. Donor height and weight should be proportionate. Because acceptability is determined on an individual basis, we may be unable to accept donors for such reasons. As such, we strongly urge donors to have a secondary plan for handling remains should they be declined from the AGR.
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.
How long might the studies take?
The Anatomical Gift Registry may use each body for up to three years, possibly longer, for educational purposes.
MCW-Specific Body Donation Questions
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.
Do you accept partial donations (amputations, organs, tissues etc.)?
MCW’s Anatomical Gift Registry does not accept partial donations, only whole-body donations.
How many bodies are donated to MCW each year?
The Medical College receives an average of 110 body donations per year.
Is age a consideration in a body donation?
No. Age is not an exclusion for body donation at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
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.
Considerations for Donor
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.
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
You can find out the current fees by calling us at (414) 955-8261 during regular business hours.
Is there a fee to register?
No, there is no fee to register for body donation.
Do I need to pre-register?
We encourage you to do so if possible; however, in cases of sudden death, it is not required.
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.
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.
Considerations for Family and Power of Attorney
Is the donation of my body to MCW legally binding or can my family next-of-kin or representative go against my wishes?
If at the time of death, the family or next-of-kin wishes to make other arrangements with donor remains, it is the policy of the Medical College of Wisconsin's Anatomical Gift Registry to comply with the wishes of the donor’s loved ones.
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.
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.
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 I choose the type of medical research for which my donation is used?
Since body donations are used in research on an as-needed basis, potential donors cannot designate their donations be used for any specific research 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.
Can a body be donated if the individual did not specify that wish before he or she died?
Enrollment in the AGR is open to all Wisconsin residents aged 18 years and older. The spouse or next of kin of a decedent may facilitate donation of their loved one’s remains if they were not registered with the AGR prior to passing.
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.
Can ashes be exhumed after being buried?
Ashes buried in our cemetery plot will not be exhumed under any circumstances or situation.
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 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.
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.
When available, can my loved ones claim the ashes for private burial?
Yes. Please refer to the donor form for more information.