Donating your body to science lets you contribute altruistically to medical advancements at the end of your life. By authorizing your body to be used for research after death, you will be helping to further surgical device research and development, advanced disease-based research, and hands-on bio skills training.
Real human tissue is the most helpful material for those studying the body. Medical professionals and students benefit from tissue that allows them to develop and practice their skills.
Your generous whole-body donation may contribute to the following types of medical programs:
- Doctor training
- Surgeon training
- Medical device training and development
- Medicine research and development
United Tissue Network is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that has been accredited by The American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB). Please read ahead to continue learning about pledging your body or that of a passing or passed loved one through UTN.
What Does It Mean to Donate a Body to Science?
You may have heard about donating your body to medical research before but never known what it really meant.
When you authorize your body to be given to science after your death, or when you do this for a family member who has just passed, you’re allowing an organization such as United Tissue Network to pick up the body and transfer it to a school or other medical-research organization.
There are many benefits to donating your body to medical research and examination.
Students and researchers use the body for training and educational purposes. These groups get more use out of real cadavers than body models. Real bodies also allow students and surgeons to test new medical devices so they can ideally be used one day on living patients.
When the researchers are finished with their training, UTN facilitates the cremation of the remains and their return to the surviving family. With us, it all comes at no cost to you.
Donating your body to science provides a selfless gift to the medical community, which will use it to advance science that can help everyone.
How to Donate My Body to Science: The UTN Registration Process
If you’re wondering how to donate your body through UTN, we’re here to help.
UTN has a set of processes for donating your body. We follow slightly different protocols depending on who you are and when in your life you are registering.
Our “S.E.T.” Program consists of the following stages:
- Self-Registration – For healthy individuals who would like their bodies donated at the point of their death. We call this a pledge process.
- End of life Registration– For individuals at the end of their lives or who are currently in hospice care. We call this the pre-approval process.
- Time of passing Registration – For individuals who have just passed. Family members or hospice workers complete this registration.
For all donors, a consent form is required to donate your body. The donor and family will be supplied with information about policies and procedures that will take place after the potential donor is deceased.
You can access all the appropriate registration forms on the right sidebar of this page.
At this point, you may have a question:
What are the criteria for donating your body to science?
The fact is, different whole-body-donation facilities employ different criteria for accepting bodies.
As a nonprofit, UTN has a wider range of acceptance criteria compared to for-profit organizations. This includes upper ages, BMIs, cancers, dementias, and much more.
The only automatic disqualifiers are a history of communicable diseases, such as HIV or hepatitis. All you have to do is to authorize your body to be donated to science and to be cremated afterward.
UTN collects the medical-social histories of its potential donors and tests the bodies before transferring them to any medical groups. We always need to make sure that the researchers we work with are safe and ultimately have rewarding experiences with the donations we give them.
However, please know that we do not provide the researchers with any personally identifiable information with the body donations.
Donors and their families will be pleased to know that UTN handles all expenses related to donating a body to science, including:
- Receiving the body from the location of its passing
- Transferring the body to a UTN facility
- Providing the family two copies of the death certificate (eligible in Arizona)
- Cremating the remains
Note that body donation is not the same as organ donation. You can still donate your organs as a body donor. UTN works with organ-donation groups in our areas to allow all usable organs to find patients who need transplants.
We’d like to take this time to address several other questions that may be of interest to those considering donating their body or that of a loved one to science:
How long do they keep your body when you donate it to science?
When you donate your body to UTN, researchers may use it anywhere from four to six weeks or one to two years, depending on what the surviving family members agree to allow.
How many bodies are donated to science each year?
Body donation is currently a relatively small affair in the United States. Our best estimates are that about 20,000 Americans donate their bodies to science each year.
Donate Your Body to Science with United Tissue Network
If you would like to make the generous gift of your body following your death, or that of a loved one, get in touch with United Tissue Network as soon as possible.
Whether you would like to pledge your body now when you are healthy or register at the end of your life, we are here to help.
You can find the appropriate consent forms on the right side of this page. Please reach out to us if you need assistance with anything. We look forward to helping you to fulfill your wishes.
Ready to register a loved one?
Click the link below to get started:
How to Donate Your Body to Science 101
Donating your body to science is a generous and benevolent act. However, it’s a big decision, and as you learn about it how to donate your body to science, you’ll realize there’s plenty to consider.
The first consideration is understanding how you can donate your body or the body of a loved one. When you think of body donation to science, what pops into your mind? Like most people, it’s likely organ donation. But there is another impactful method to donate your body to science: whole-body donation. There are similarities and differences between the two processes, so let’s take a brief look at both.
- Organ donation is exactly as it sounds. Upon death, specific organs and tissue are transported for immediate transplant into a living individual whose life may be saved by the transplant. There are over 100,000 patients on transplant lists. Every day, 17 people die due to organ donation shortages. You are required by law to register to be an organ donor. In most states, you can register through the department of motor vehicles or the National Registry.
But registering as an organ donor is not the same as, nor is it consent for, a whole-body donation to science.
- The other mode by which you donate your body to science is whole-body donation. It is different from organ donation in that upon death the body is transported to a scientific research facility or medical school for focused research and training. The deceased is cremated and returned to the family when study and training are complete.
This whole process, on average, takes about four to six weeks. Estimates are that only about 20,000 people each year donate to science in this manner. This is a very small number, and it absolutely does not meet the needs of the scientific and medical training communities.
Like organ donation, you must register to be a whole-body donor. It is important to know that, generally, you can be both an organ donor and a whole-body donor, but you must register for each separately. If you are registered for both, organ donation takes priority once you or your loved one passes.
If you are thinking about your legacy or the legacy of a loved one as it relates to donating my body to science when I die, consider it this way:
Organ donation saves a life. Tissue and eye donation heals a life. Whole Body Donation heals and saves countless lives and moves medical science and education forward for many years to come.
How do You Donate Your Body to Science After Death?
Now that you know the ways you can donate, your next consideration is answering the question of how do you go about donating your body to science.
As mentioned previously, the steps to organ donation are very straightforward. You can register with a state motor vehicle department or through The National Registry.
Whole-body donation to science is an uncomplicated way to leave a legacy. However, because no federal agency or national registry connects donors with research programs and medical schools that need human tissue, the route you take to donation can be more complex. If you choose to navigate the process yourself, the whole process can quickly become overwhelming.
Depending upon where you live, you may need to contact your state anatomical board, or you can connect directly with the medical school or research program you hope to support. Not all programs accept all deceased bodies, so you must find out what criteria might exempt you from the donation. These could include infectious diseases, weight, type of death, or prior organ transplant donation, to name a few.
United Tissue Network will help you navigate this process and once accepted will never deny your donation.
Non-transplant Anatomical Donation Organizations (NADOs) are the formal name for entities who have whole-body donor programs, that is, they receive the donated body from the location where the death occurred, prepare the deceased’s body, and deliver the body to research and medical facilities. There are many of these entities across the United States, and you should be methodical in evaluating any organization you consider. Only a small number of organizations are accredited by the American Association of Tissue Banks, which ensures that an organization operates under the highest standards and honors the wishes of its donors and their families. But accreditation is optional and is not required by law.
As a potential whole-body donor who wants to make a difference, selecting an accredited, reputable tissue bank like United Tissue Network, that holds you and your loved one’s integrity top-of-mind is crucial for being at peace with your decision. There has been progress, but donation programs can still prey on potential donors, particularly those struggling to afford conventional funeral or cremation services.
United Tissue Network offers a no cost cremation option for people looking for financial assistance.
Benefits of Donating Your Body to Science
There is no way to quantify the benefits of donating your body to science. There are countless scientific advances and medical discoveries that would not have occurred without the use of human tissue. Think about how far we have come in diagnosing and treating diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, Diabetes, and heart disease, to name just a few. Future innovations will only be sustained by generous donors whose legacies have been solidified through whole-body donation to science.
Whole-body donation is also crucial in helping healthcare and medical science students grasp their comprehension of the human body and master surgical and treatment skills. Beyond the training in human anatomy, learning through the use of deceased human bodies also teaches medical students how to work collaboratively and to gain experience handling the emotionally difficult moments they will face when they practice medicine. Can you imagine how amazing it would be to help cure the illness that led to your own death or to the loss of your loved one?
Reducing cost is one more noteworthy benefits of donating your body to science. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, traditional funeral costs in the United States have increased 6.6% over the last few years. In 2023 they range on average from $6,684 to $14,975. The cost of a funeral with cremation has increased by 11.3%.
Whole-body donation to science followed by cremation will cost you and your family very little or nothing. For families who are not only dealing with the loss of a loved one but who are also concerned with finances, a whole-body donation with cremation is an ideal choice.
Does it Cost Money to Donate Your Body to Science?
Financial concerns can have an impact on end-of-life decision-making. If you wonder, “Does it cost money to donate your body to science?” You will be relieved to know that choosing whole-body donation to science with cremation saves you money. It is the lowest cost option available for the end of life. There are a few associated costs:
- Receiving the body from the place where the individual passed away,
- Transporting the deceased to the scientific facility,
- Death certificates (eligible in Arizona)
Medical schools and research institutions to which you might donate may offer some assistance with these costs, but that is not guaranteed. However, United Tissue Network, the only true non-profit (501C3) organization that provides this service in Arizona and Florida, guarantees coverage of all expenses for its donors and their families. You can rest easy, knowing that you will not have any costs associated with your death or the death of a loved one, and you will simultaneously leave an important legacy.
If you are also wondering if there is whole body donation for money, the short answer is “no.” No payment is allowed by law, and any legitimate research facility, medical school, or donation service would never pay an individual or family for a whole-body donation. The Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, adapted and adopted by 47 states, is the guideline for whole-body donation to science. It addresses issues like financial gain, consent, acting in good faith, and cooperation between donation entities related to the deceased.
Can I Donate my Body to Science While Still Alive?
Donating your body to science while you are still alive is part of many people’s end-of-life preparation. Including whole-body donation in your plan and sharing it with your family gives everyone peace of mind and allows you to focus without worrying about your needs and the needs of those you love.
United Tissue Network makes it very easy to donate your body to science. Not only will we help guide you over every step, but you can register for donation through our S.E.T Program: that is, as a part of your end-of-life plans or at the point in time that you or your loved one becomes ill or is dying, or when you or a family member passes away.
What is the Best Place to Donate a Body to Science?
Remember, that while there are many whole-body donation services across the country, there are very few whom the American Association of Tissue Banks accredits. Not only is United Tissue Network accredited, but it is also the only true non-profit (501(c)(3)) organization providing this critical tissue donation service in the United States. We will help you wherever you are in your process and carefully guide you through your human tissue donation.
Since 2009 United Tissue Network has been providing services in Phoenix, Arizona. It has helped nearly 12,000 families make important end-of-life choices that suit their needs. We have helped families find solace in knowing they have honored their loved one’s legacy and made an important contribution to society for many years. We’ve also expanded our whole body donation services to the Tampa, Florida area and looks forward to helping even more families across Florida make a difference.
Being accredited by the American Association of Tissue Banks ensures prospective donors that the highest standards of excellence are applied to the whole-body donation process. It also shows you are working with an organization that holds itself to a higher standard. At United Tissue Network, the “UTN Way” incorporates important fundamentals upon which the organization was built and operates. Those fundamentals, such as “Do the Right Thing, Always,” “Make Quality Personal,” “Listen to Understand,” and “Do What’s Best for the Client,” are practiced every day by UTN staff and give you insight into how you and your family will be treated and assisted as you make your donation and build your family’s legacy.
What is My Next Step to Donating a Body to Science
The caring and experienced United Tissue Network staff can help you access whole-body donation and cremation services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And these staff are not outsourced operators taking calls from overseas, as with other providers. These Phoenix and St. Petersburg, Florida based Donor Services Coordinators understand the challenge of losing a loved one and will help you find your way through a difficult time.
United Tissue Network understands that families who have lost a loved one, or those whose loss is imminent, are making difficult decisions while simultaneously experiencing an emotionally challenging period in their own lives.
With that in mind, UTN has made whole-body donations as simple and easy as possible and created the ONLY online, self-directed registration process available in the United States. You can take your time, go step by step, and only talk to someone if or when you wish.
How Can I Begin My Whole-Body Donation to Science
You can begin right now. Visit United Tissue Network for more information about cremation services and whole-body donations. You can begin an easy, online, self-directed registration process or call us toll-free at 1-877-738-6111. In Florida, you can also register here. In Arizona, you can also register here.
Ready to register a loved one?
Click the link below to get started: