Whole Body Donation: What to Expect After a Death

Research For Life has made the entire whole body donation process as simple as possible. Our process is comprised of two phases for both registered and non-registered donors. We have also made sure that we have taken every action possible to keep contact with your loved ones at a minimum during this difficult time.

Phase One

All registered Research For Life donors that are pre-qualified have already supplied all required authorization and permission forms for this phase.

Close up of a researcher looking into a microscope

Steps for Registered Donors

Step 1: Contact Research For Life to report the death.

Step 2: Collect information for the transportation of the donor.

Step 3: Transportation to the Research For Life facility.

Steps for Non-registered Donors

Step 1: Contact Research For Life to report the death.

Step 2: Qualification questionnaire. Research For Life will use the questionnaire to determine donor qualification during the call.

Step 3: Authorization/permission for transportation. We obtain all necessary authorizations and collect the information necessary for transportation of the donor.

Step 4: Transportation to the Research For Life facility.

Phase Two

Step 5: Research For Life contacts the legal next of kin for additional information. The Medical/Social History questionnaire, any missing information from the authorization packet, and any additional forms that may needed, depending on the situation, will be requested at this time.

In Arizona, the Death Registration Worksheet will be requested. In California, we will confirm death certificate information by phone.

Step 6: The donor body is processed for recovery at the Research For Life facility. Those tissues not retained for placement are cremated at this time.

Step 7: If selected, the cremated remains are returned to the legal next of kin within 4 to 6 weeks.

We provide several options to all our donors:

  • Spread Ashes at Sea (a.k.a. Burial at Sea)
  • Or a “No Return” Option

Step 8: The donor is honored at the Research For Life Annual Memorial Celebration held during the month of April in Arizona and California. Personal invitations are sent out to the families of donors from the previous year. All attendees are welcome to bring friends and additional family members.

Need more information

Have questions about Research For Life & Whole Body Donation?
Call us 800.229.3244 or contact us online.
Our professional and compassionate staff is available 24/7 – 365 days/year.

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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.