Body Donation FAQs

Research For Life connects whole body donors to the educators and researchers who use human tissue to advance medicine. We have worked with thousands of families through the Research For Life Donor Program. This program provides a no-cost alternative to traditional funeral arrangements that includes transportation, cremation, and options for the final disposition of the cremains.

Pre-registration is not required to be accepted as a donor. However, it is important to know that registered donors do enjoy the peace of mind knowing they not only have a plan, they are also donating hope to future generations.


About Whole Body Donation


Who can donate?

While donating your whole body can benefit so many, it is a decision only you can make. Such an important choice requires serious thought and consideration. One consideration is eligibility. Almost everyone is eligible for whole body donation. However, there are some factors that could prevent being accepted into our program:

Certain Illnesses or Diseases

Researchers and educators can often utilize tissue from even seriously ill donors—even those with cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. There are only a few diseases that prevent donation — blood related diseases such as AIDS or HIV, Hepatitis B and C, certain bacterial infections, plus other specific, though very rare, illnesses. Even if you are ill, contact us if you are interested and we can discuss the possibilities.


While there is no maximum age limit to be an anatomical donor, (the average age range is in the 80′s) Research For Life does not accept any donors under the age of 18.


In most cases, researchers and educators cannot utilize tissue from donors who are severely malnourished or morbidly obese, but there is some demand for tissue from all body types, so please contact us, whatever your weight.


If you have questions regarding how your religion views body donation, speak with a member of your faith’s clergy for counsel.

When must the decision to donate be made?

Any time you feel at ease making it. The final decision to donate can be granted by either the donor before death through pre-registration or the legal next of kin can grant consent if the donor had not elected to pre-register.

While there are no requirements for pre-registration, Research For Life wants to answer all your question and honor your requests, and sometimes, that can take a while. Therefore, we encourage you and you close family members to contact us as soon as possible.

Who can consent to donation and cremation?

You or your legal next of kin may consent to anatomical donation with two witnesses, in accordance with your state’s Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, and any applicable state and federal laws regarding cremation authorizations. The law also provides that a third party may make the decision for you if you have designated and authorized that person in advance through the appointment of a Health Care Power of Attorney.

Who are my legal next of kin?

Each state’s Uniform Anatomical Gift Act defines the Consenting Class Hierarchy (next of kin) for the donation process. The legal next of kin can range form the donor’s closest relatives (as defined by state law) to a designated Health Care Power of Attorney. Most states recognize the Health Care Power of Attorney as the highest order of next of kin.

Will my family have to pay for the cost of my donation?

No. There are no costs directly involved with whole body donation to Research For Life. However, there are expenses associated with obtaining certified copies of the death certificate and, in some cases, Medical Examiner fees are incurred. The costs for death certificates vary from county to county but usually range from $20.00 to $30.00 per certified copy.

Will we still be able to get cremated remains?

Yes. Research For Life returns the cremated remains to the designated next of kin when the return option is chosen. Remember that the only cremated remains returned are those that are not retained for medical education or medical research. Those tissues retained by Research For Life will never be returned to the next of kin under any circumstance.

Research For Life gives you several options for the disposition of the cremated remains; all of which are provided at no cost to you or your next of kin. You can select to have your ashes returned to your designated next of kin, spreading your ashes at sea, or a no return option.

How do I obtain a Death Certificate?

Research For Life will submit the information for the death certificate into the county vital records system. We then provide you with the forms you need (with instructions) to obtain death certificates from the county. The costs for death certificates vary from county to county but usually range from $20.00 to $30.00 per certified copy.

How does donation affect funeral arrangements?

With whole body donation, open casket viewing is not possible. However, it is very common for families to hold a memorial service with or without the cremated remains. Research For Life also holds an Annual Memorial service in Arizona and California during National Donor Month in April.

Does the funeral industry support anatomical donation?

The growing popularity of this option has had a dramatic effect on how funeral service providers view Whole Body Donation.  Most funeral homes and morticians understand that it is the donors and their families who make the decision regarding the disposition of their body following death.  The scientific and medical benefits to humankind cannot be ignored and most funeral homes will support this decision.

Is it possible to have a Memorial Service?

Yes, many families choose to have a memorial service in honor of the donor, with or without cremated remains present. Burials, scatterings, and other ceremonies are also often performed by the donor’s loved ones once they are in possession of the cremated remains.

Research For Life also holds an Annual Memorial Celebration in Arizona and Southern California. This gives donor families another opportunity to honor their loved ones.

How is Whole Body Donation different from Transplant Donation?

Transplant Donation is tissue intended to save or enhance someone’s life by being transplanted into a living person. Whole Body Donation differs because it is tissue intended for medical research, education, and advancing medicine.

Both are important and both save lives. Research For Life is committed to putting Transplant Donation first due to its life-saving nature.   Research For Life will work and coordinate with the transplant organization to honor your wishes.

You should also know that it is possible to be both a transplant donor as well as a whole body donor.

Can I specify the type of research or education I wish to donate to?

Once a whole body is donated, we assess and place the tissue specimens with the particular studies that would best benefit from the donation. The nature of the death and a host of other variables are considered during the process of determining if a tissue specimen will be accepted into a study.

If there is a particular study that a donor wishes to contribute to, it is important to let us know so that we can do our best to match the donation with the study. It may be determined that the donor tissue would better benefit other areas of medical research or education. Also, there is no guarantee that the donor tissue will be accepted into any study.

Research For Life reserves the right to determine the best possible placement for the donated tissue and cannot guarantee contribution acceptance.

Where do the organs and tissue go?

All the organs and tissue donated to Research For Life are used solely to advance medical research and education. We have very specific policies, procedures and agreements that strictly control all aspects of tissue donation and use. These controls are in place to ensure that all researchers and educators are approved before any tissue requests are considered and filled. The organizations using donated tissue often include medical schools, medical institutions, surgical learning facilities and disease research associations.


About Research For Life


How do I register to be a donor with Research For Life?

You can register to be a donor with Research For Life at any time. Potential donors must reside within our approved service area and not be under the age of 18. Our approved service area currently covers the state of Arizona (AZ) and Southern California (CA).

Click here to download our Donor Registration Packet.

All forms are in PDF format and may be completed online or printed and completed by hand. Send your completed Donor Registration Packet to us by:


FAX: 1.480.471.5177




POSTAL MAIL: Research For Life
2230 East Magnolia Street
Phoenix, AZ 85034
Research For Life
41743 Enterprise Circle North, Suite 104
Temecula, CA 92590

If you would like to speak with someone from Family Services first, please contact us at 800.229.3244. Our phones are staffed 24 hours a day/7 days a week/365 days a year by trained professionals who are ready to take your call. If you have specific donor registry questions, please call during our normal business hours –  8AM – 5PM PST, Monday through Friday – so that we can connect you with a Family Services expert.

Once your registration has been accepted, Research For Life will mail an acceptance letter with registration number, a donor ID card for your wallet, and a copy of the registration packet for you records in approximately 2 weeks. We ask that you share this information with your family or parties responsible for your arrangements so that your wish to donate is honored when the need arises.

How will my loved one be cared for during the donation process?

All organizations that are provided with donated human tissue must sign a Tissue Transfer Agreement and, in so doing, agrees to treat the tissue specimens in a dignified manner. Any organization who violates the Agreement, particularly the Dignity & Respect clause, will be denied the ability to secure tissue from Research For Life.

If I pre-registered with another organization can I change my mind and register with Research For Life?

Yes. You have the legal right to pre-register with the organization of your choice at any time.

Can I revoke my request to be a donor prior to my death?

Yes. You or your family member may revoke your decision to donate by asking to be removed as a donor either in writing or by phone.

What about confidentiality? Is my information protected?

Research For Life conforms to the highest level of professionalism regarding donor information and shall only identify the donor when required by law or as necessary to aid in the placement of human tissue. We respect your privacy and will do everything reasonably possible to ensure that confidentiality is adhered to.

Can I visit Research For Life?

Absolutely. We welcome visitors daily because we are very proud of our offices and laboratory facilities. You may call 800.229.3244 to arrange a private tour or click here to RSVP for one of our public tours. The public tours are held 4 times a year at our Arizona facility. The tour begins in a classroom setting where visitors attend a presentation on whole body donation followed by a Q&A session and then a tour of the entire facility. We believe maintaining public trust includes complete transparency and open access.

What services does Research For Life provide?

We provide the following services for donors:

  • no cost cremation
  • no cost for body transportation
  • no cost filing of death certificate into county vital records system
  • forms needed to obtain death certificates from the county (with instructions)
  • no cost return of cremated remains if return chosen
  • Return of cremated remains in 4 – 6 weeks
  • Annual Memorial Celebration

Research For Life is a premier provider of anatomical material for medical education and research. We have brought the whole body donation experience to a new and unprecedented level of compassionate care and professionalism. We are dedicated to making the donation experience as meaningful and dignified as possible for the donors and their families while providing quality contributions of valuable human tissue to medical educators and researchers.

What you can expect from Research For Life:

  • A professional, experienced and compassionate staff.
  • A trained staff member will answer your calls personally, 24/7/365.
  • All arrangements may be made in our office, at your home, or in your hospital room or hospice care facility.
  • Research For Life files all necessary paperwork with the County. The next of kin is then able to obtain Certified Death Certificates from the County’s Records Department, the costs vary between counties.
  • No cost for cremation.
  • No cost for body transportation.
  • No cost for providing the cremated remains to our donor’s family.
  • No cost for a dignified “Spreading at sea.”
Why choose Research For Life?

Patients referred to Research For Life, and who are accepted into our Donor Program, are accepted at the time of death even if health conditions change later. Please note the limitations, there are factors that can void the acceptance of a donor.

We established this program to show that our commitment is about respecting the gift that has been offered. We do this to honor the relationship between the referring hospice or caregiver and the donor/donor family. Giving the donor and their loved ones this peace of mind during the difficult times they are facing together is the right thing to do.

How is Research For Life funded?

Research For Life is a for profit organization compensated for the recovery of all human tissue specimens by medical educators, researchers and others deemed appropriate to receive donated human tissue. None of the revenue we receive is ever from donors, their families or the donor’s estate.

Notice of right to change or modify services.
Research For Life reserves the right to change or modify, without notice, the services it provides or offers to the public regarding all aspects of whole body donation in its sole discretion.

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Research For Life - Understanding Whole Body Donor Consent

Hello, my name is Garland Shreves, CEO of Research For Life. I want to take a moment to discuss some very basic information with you regarding consent forms, in general, that you may encounter when considering to donate to a whole body donor organization.

First and foremost, you need to understand and read the consent form, also known as the authorization form or document of gift, so you know what you are consenting to.  Ask questions of the organization if you don’t understand something. 

 All states require, under the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, that consent be granted by an authorized agent of the donor or self-authorization before death.

Each state defines who in the consenting class has the most authority to direct donation. Such as the medical power of attorney, spouse, children, grandchildren, siblings, etc. and differs slightly in each state. 

Consent may be given by means of a verbal recorded consent or by a written document of gift.

Research For Life uses a written consent form which can be found on our website.

Understand that the donor or authorizing agent is giving the body to an organization. Once given it belongs to the organization to use in accordance with the consent form.

In other words, the donor organization is free to use the donor provided it does so within the terms

of the consent, it may not use the donor in a manner not consented too.  

The consent may state how the body may be used.  Educational and/or research purposes or some other purpose may be stated or in the discretion of the donor organization.

Research For Life provides cadavers and/or anatomical specimens for education and research purposes and does not do ballistic testing.

The consent may state that the body will be used in whole or in parts. It may also state that the anatomical parts may be used domestically and or internationally.

And most consents will cover some basic things like consent to test the donor for diseases and order medical records to help best determine the medical suitability for the donation.

The consent may also touch on issues like for profit or nonprofit status and if the donor or anatomical specimens will be used by one or more or both types of entities.  Remember that regardless of an organizations tax status they all charge fees to end users who order anatomical specimens and offer those specimens to both for profit and nonprofit entities.

From the very start of the donation process costs to the donor organization begin. 24-hour answering service, transport team to respond 24/7, qualified trained staff paid a livable wage with benefits and retirement, electric, gas, phone, insurances, building payments, maintenance, medical director, and regulatory requirements, and cremation fees. And these are just some of the expenses that an organization may have to cover.

Another item you may see on most authorization forms is a release of liability, a hold harmless agreement, excluding misconduct of course.  

Research For Life states clearly it will not and donor or agent agrees that Research For Life will not be held responsible for acts of third parties in connection with the donation.

Another item that reduces a donor organizations liability is the Anatomical Gift Act prohibits criminal, civil or administrative actions provided there is no intentional misconduct on the part of the donor organization. In other words, if the donor organization acted in good faith it is immune and provided some protection from lawsuits.

Another important part on a consent form is the person signing the authorization attests (affirms) that they have the authority to direct the donation. The donor organization accepts the authorizing agent’s authority in good faith barring any information known to it at the time of donation that would contradict the authority of the person authorizing donation.    

Remember, should you decide to register, tell your family and friends about your decision.

Also, the donation authorization form is not valid until notarized or signed by two witnesses; one witness must be non-family or disinterested party. 

Consent forms contain other important information that you need to read and understand.

All documents of gift or authorizations can be cancelled prior to death.

I want to thank you for taking the time to watch this video and I hope it helped provide you with some basic information regarding whole body donation consent forms.  Thank you.