Willed Body Program

Donation for Medical Education

The Willed Body Program at the School of Osteopathic Medicine offers students pursuing careers in health professions a unique learning experience to study human anatomy. Students will learn about the human body through hands-on training to advance their technical skills with the goal of improving future patient outcomes. Body donation is critical for training new physicians, conducting medical research, and helping specialists develop new approaches to improve healthcare.

Image of the SOM Chapel

The Gift of Body Donation

For donors making end-of-life arrangements for themselves or their loved ones, the generosity and thoughtful final act of body donation can impact the lives of many students over the course of their careers as future doctors, dentists, and other health care professionals. Through donation, students and residents will use the knowledge and skills they learn to improve the health and well-being of others.

Memorial Service

Today’s funeral costs for basic services range between $10,000 and $12,000. For many families, these costs make even the most basic of services unobtainable. The University’s Willed Body Program aims to provide a no-cost burial alternative to those in need. Families will have comfort knowing that dignity and respect for the donors are always maintained. By enrolling in the Willed Body Program, families can alleviate some of the stress and financial burden brought on by the passing of a loved one. Each year a Service of Remembrance and Gratitude will be held for individuals and their families who donate their bodies or their loved ones to the program.

Steps to Becoming a Donor

Step 1: Interested donors should contact the Willed Body Program and fill out the donation packet. Donors must be at least 18 years of age and competent to make the decision to donate.

Step 2: Submit the completed donation packet, sign (attested by two witnesses), and send the packet to the Willed Body Program via fax, mail or email. Once registered, a copy of the donation form will be mailed along with a wallet donor card.

Step 3: The next of kin can make an after-death donation of their loved one by contacting the Willed Body Program for approval. If accepted, the next of kin or the person in charge will complete the after-death donation packet and return it to the Willed Body Program via fax, mail or email.

Frequently Asked Question

The families will have comfort in knowing that dignity and respect for the donors are maintained throughout the studies and research. The laboratory is in a secure and restricted area. Only medical students, faculty, staff, and students of health-related professions are authorized to use the facility.

All donor bodies are cremated upon completion of use. Cremated remains will be INTERRED in a group Columbarium on the campus of the University of The Incarnate Word's School of Osteopathic Medicine at no cost to the family. Each year a Service of Remembrance and Gratitude will be held memorializing those individuals and their families who have donated their loved ones to medical education.

The Willed Body Program staff will handle all removal arrangements with our contracted mortuary service.

There is no cost to be a donor. The families are responsible for additional mileage fees for transportation over 100 miles from the place of death to our institution. If family members contact a third-party funeral home or mortuary company instead of our Willed Body Program for any services (including pickup and transportation), these initial charges will be the responsibility of the family.

No, this is a whole-body donation program. The corneas (not the eyes) are the only exception and may be harvested for donation. Arrangements for the corneas harvest must be made by the family prior to the delivery to our institution. Organs, tissues, and neurodegenerative disease brain donations are done by other organizations.

Funeral services must be coordinated with the Willed Body Program.  The funeral home handling the services must comply with a strict embalming protocol. Failure to do so may affect the eligibility of the donation.

To remove your donation from our database, a written, signed notification of your wish to rescind your donation must be sent to our office.

Although you may be registered with our institution, we will not be able to accept the donation from another state or from outside of the country. We suggest that your family inform our Willed Body Program of the death and locate a donation program closest to the place of death.

The embalming procedures are coordinated by the Willed Body Program staff. This is done at no cost to your family. The family will have financial obligations for any funeral services or other arrangements made with a third-party facility.

The death certificates are processed, filed, and ordered by our contracted mortuary service that handles the transportation to our facility.