School of Medicine

Wayne State University School of Medicine

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the donation of my body to the University legally binding, and can my family go against my wishes?

The execution of a body donation form is that of a will and is legally binding. However, if at the time of death, the family wishes to make other funeral arrangements, it has been the policy of the University to comply with the wishes of the family or next of kin.

Does the University or any other medical school pay a fee for a donated body?

The Uniform Anatomical Gift Law makes no provision for buying donated bodies. In most cases, the University does pay all expenses for transportation, cremation, and burial of a body donation within the donation district of Southeastern Michigan.

At the time of death, under what conditions would the Anatomy Board of the State of Michigan, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Body Bequest Program refuse a body donation?

At the time of death, the following conditions in which a body donation would be denied are as follows:

Recent major surgery (within the last 6 months, prior to the death)
Obesity (weight in proportion to height)
Badly burned (such as in a fire) or decomposed (such as in a drowning)
Contagious disease (HIV, TB, VRE, Hep B/C/D, MRSA, C-Diff)
An autopsied body, or any other unsuitable condition.
Bed Sores Stage 3-4
Amputation of limbs or part thereof

Are autopsies performed at the University?

No, autopsies are usually performed in a hospital or medical examiner’s office. Nor does the University provide pathology reports.

Is age a consideration in a body donation?

No, age is not considered in a body donation. 

Can you donate organs and a body simultaneously?

No, the removal of any major organ, at the time of death, with exception of the corneas, deems a body unsuitable for medical teaching and/or research.

What percentage of the bodies are used for research and what type of research is being done at the University?

95% of the bodies are used for medical and/or dental teaching. 5% are used for research. At the present time, continual research is in operation on, but not limited to—Muscular Dystrophy, Huntington’s Chorea, Multiple Congenital Anomalies, Various Eye Diseases, Orthopedic, Dental, and Bioengineering studies, including safety testing.

What about research on cancer?

Cancer research is not performed on the bodies received at the University. Research studies on cancer are usually performed in a major hospital or cancer institute.

What is the procedure in the event that an individual should expire at a private residence?

In the event the death occurs at home, the person finding the body should first notify their local police department and then notify the Body Bequest Office.

What if I should move to or die outside Southeastern Michigan or in another state? Will the University still accept my body?

If a person moves, lives, or dies outside Southeastern Michigan or in another state, arrangements should be made with the nearest medical school. Should the family still want the body sent to Wayne State University, they would have to assume the transportation costs.

Can the family have a funeral service before the University receives the body?

Yes, however, the family and funeral director should notify the Body Bequest Office before final funeral preparations are made. At that time, instructions will be given to the funeral director as to how to prepare the body for teaching purposes.

How long is a body used for teaching and what is the final disposition of the body?

The medical profession is a long and slow learning process. The bodies utilized in the medical curriculum could entail a period of one week or even two years; sometimes longer. When the various studies have been completed the remains are cremated.

Can the family claim the ashes for private burial?

If the family wishes to have the remains returned for burial, the University, if requested at the time of death, will return the ashes to the family. The expense of this burial must be assumed by the family.

How are the ashes buried and where is the University burial plot?

The unclaimed ashes are buried together in a shared grave. The next of kin is notified by mail when the burial will take place, and is invited to attend the memorial service. The University burial plot is located at Oakland Hills Memorial Gardens, 43300 Twelve Mile, Novi, Michigan 48377.

Are individual markers or flowers permitted at the University burial plot?

Individual flowers are permitted at the University burial plot. Individual markers are not permitted.  As an alternative, there are memorial walls at the grave site and the family can purchase a name plaque to be placed on the wall.  This is done through the cemetery office.