Skip to content

Body Donation

An ever-increasing number of people make arrangements to leave their bodies for anatomical study, thereby providing a most unique and caring gift. Such people have rendered a significant service after death to their fellow men and women.

Each year hundreds of men and women begin their medical careers at Michigan State University's two medical schools: the College of Human Medicine and the College of Osteopathic Medicine. The curriculum of each college requires anatomical study of the human body. Without the generous gift of donors to the Division of Human Anatomy's Willed Body Program, the study of anatomy would not be possible.

Act 368 of the Public Acts of Michigan 1978, Article 10, Part 101, authorizes an individual to will his or her body after death to a medical institution. Excerpts from this act are printed on the donor form. The Michigan state legislature amended the 1978 Act in 2008 to include the Revised Uniform Anatomical Gift Law.

This describes the procedure for willing one's body to Michigan State University for medical education and answers commonly asked questions about donation. It also describes our commitment to the dignity and respect of donors.

Considering the Donor Program

Anatomy, the study of the human body, is one of the first and most important courses in the education of physicians. In most medical schools the study of anatomy is taught in the first year and serves as the foundation for courses in pathology, physiology, and surgery.

The generous gift of one's body for medical education assists in maintaining the Division of Human Anatomy's teaching program and enhances its commitment to teaching excellence.

Cornea and Organ Donation

The Willed Body Program only accepts whole bodies for medical education because organ donation renders the body unsuitable for our teaching program. However, the Willed Body Program will accept bodies following eye removal for the purpose of cornea transplant provided all other criteria are met. The Willed Body Program does not conduct eye removals. Arrangements for eye removal should be made by the family and the procedure performed prior to the body being transported to the University. Individuals seeking information on cornea donation should contact:

Michigan Eye Bank
4889 Venture Drive
Ann Arbor, MI 48108
Phone: (800) 247-7250
Phone: (734) 780-2100

Information on other types of organ and tissue donation may be obtained through:

Gift of Life Agency
3861 Research Park Drive
Ann Arbor, MI 48108
Phone: (800) 482-4881

Respect for the Dead

Survivors may be comforted by knowing the dignity and respect for those who have donated their bodies is maintained at all times. The indispensable contribution that participants in the Willed Body Program have made is fully recognized. The laboratory is situated in a restricted area and only medical students, faculty, staff, or students of health-related professions are authorized to use the facility.

Final Disposition of Remains

After use in our teaching program, generally lasting one to three years, the bodies are individually cremated and the cremated remains are buried in the University burial plot in East Lawn Memory Gardens in Okemos, Michigan.

Individual memorial plaques may be purchased by the donor's family for the Memorial wall at East Lawn Memory Gardens. To purchase a plaque, please contact East Lawn Memory Gardens at (517) 349-9180. Costs for memorial plaques are the responsibility of the donor's family.

If the family requests the return of the cremated remains for private burial, they are responsible for making the arrangements and for the costs involved. For burial through the Willed Body Program, an annual interment service is held each September for those individuals who have been cremated that year. The individual urns are placed in a vault and interred together. Family members who choose to be notified of this service are invited to attend. Interment expenses are assumed by the Willed Body Program.

Body Donation Procedures

If, after reading this information, you wish to donate your body to Michigan State University, you need only to request and complete a donor form. Send one copy to the Division of Human Anatomy and retain the other two for your records. Upon receipt of your signed and witnessed donor form, a wallet-sized identification card will be forwarded to you.

It is advisable that your next of kin be informed of your intentions and become familiar with the information in seen here on our website.

Click here to go to the printable donor form*. This form includes the donor consent form. 

  1. Fill out the form using Adobe Reader.
    • Within the document window click on each of the areas (Date Signed, Name, Address, etc.) and enter the requested information.
    • Print the entire document and sign (donor and witnesses), it is suggested you print 3 copies of the first page.
  2. Print the form with three copies of page one, and complete by hand.

Keep two copies of the donor form for your records, and submit one signed and witnessed copy of the form to:

Willed Body Program
Division of Human Anatomy
Central Fee Hall
939 Wilson Road, E206
East Lansing, MI 48824
Phone: (517) 353-5398
Fax: (517) 884-9540
Email: Sarah Garnaat, BSN, RN

Attention: Funeral directors and Hospitals

To access a copy of the Next-of-Kin donation form click here*. The form may be filled out online then printed.

Adobe Reader required to view/edit this document

Procedure at the Time of Death

The Division of Human Anatomy should be contacted as soon as possible once death occurs. During regular working hours (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m-5 p.m.), call (517) 353-5398.

Effective Friday, September 30, 2022: Due to area transportation limitations, we are no longer able to provide 24-hour transportation for our donor program.

At the time of death, a funeral home that has cold storage must be contacted and advised to contact the Willed Body Program at Michigan State University at (517) 353-5398 during regular business hours to determine acceptance of the donor’s body to our program.

A medical report from a healthcare professional will be necessary and medical records will be required.

Memorial Gifts

Monetary contributions in memory of deceased friends and family members may be made to the Division of Human Anatomy. Such gifts are used to improve our educational facilities and teaching materials, thus having a direct benefit on our students' educational experiences.

As gifts to Michigan State University, memorial contributions may entitle you to a deduction on your itemized federal income tax return and, for Michigan residents, a tax credit on your state income tax return. To make a memorial contribution to the Division of Human Anatomy, make your check payable to Michigan State University. Please designate the Anatomical Gift Fund as recipient and include the name of the person in whose memory the contribution is being made. Your check should be sent to:

Development Fund
Michigan State University
300 Spartan Way
East Lansing, MI 48824-1005

Commonly Asked Questions About Body Donation

Q. Will my body automatically be accepted into the Willed Body Program once I sign and return the donor form?

A. No. The decision to accept or reject the donation is always made at the time of death. Therefore, it would be advisable to have an alternative plan in the event we are unable to accept the donation.

Q. What conditions would prevent the Willed Body Program from accepting my body?

A. Extensive burns, trauma, recent surgery, extreme obesity or emaciation, beginning stages of decomposition, and the presence, or suspected presence, of contagious disease including, but not limited to, hepatitis, AIDS, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

Q. Who pays to have my body transported to the university?

A. The Willed Body Program is able to make removals and provide transportation within the immediate Lansing area. If death occurs outside of the Lansing area, the family must contract with a funeral director to provide transportation to the university. The family is responsible for these costs.

Q. Will I (or my family) be paid for donating my body?

A. No. Donating one's body to medical science is a gift to the receiving institution.

Q. If I am out of the state when I die, will the Willed Body Program still accept my body?

A. No. Because of the time and cost involved in transporting a body from out of state, it is recommended that you explore the possibility of donating your body to the nearest medical school.

Q. Does a funeral director do the embalming and is my family responsible for this expense?

A. No. The embalming procedure takes place at the university by an individual licensed in mortuary science once the body is received. The cost is assumed by the Willed Body Program.

Q. Is my family responsible for the cost of cremation?

A. No. The Willed Body Program makes all arrangements and pays for cremation.

Q. Will the Willed Body Program conduct any research relevant to the cause of death and provide my family with a report of their findings?

A. No. The bodies received are used strictly for the purpose of medical education in the instruction of anatomy. There are no autopsies performed and no pathological reports prepared.

Q. How long will my body be used by the Willed Body Program?

A. The Willed Body Program may use each body for up to three years, or possibly longer, for teaching purposes. At the end of that time the body is cremated and instructions provided by the family for disposition are followed. A donor may also choose to make an indefinite donation.

Q. What is an indefinite donation?

A. A donor may choose to donate his or her body without any restriction as to the length of time that the body may be used. A body donated for an indefinite period can be used for educational purposes as long as it remains an effective teaching tool. At the end of that time the body is cremated and the family's instructions for disposition are followed.

Q. Can my family have a funeral service before my body is brought to MSU?

A. We prefer to receive the body as soon as possible after death has occurred. However, a funeral is possible prior to the donation. The funeral director needs to be informed by the family of the intent to donate and then contact the Willed Body Program for specific embalming instructions.

Q. Does the Willed Body Program ever refuse donations because they have an adequate supply of bodies?

A. Not usually. The Willed Body Program has a consistent need for bodies in order to maintain its teaching program. There is a possibility that a donation may be refused if our supply exceeds our needs, but this is not common.