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Willed Body Program

The Tulane Willed Body Program will program will be suspended from December 21, 2021 until January 4, 2022.
We would like to thank everyone for their understanding during the temporary hiatus of our Willed Body Program.

Tulane will not release information regarding any donor unless it is the donor, ashes recipient, power of attorney or executor/next of kin which is located on the donor agreement.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT BODY DONATION TO TULANE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE FOR RESEARCH AND EDUCATION *

Why are human bodies donated to science, and how are they used?

They are an invaluable aid in research and education.  Donated bodies may be used by various individuals and institutions in connection with education and research, with such goals as (1) assisting in the education and continuing education of current and future health care practitioners, anatomists, forensic scientists, and mortuary technicians, and (2) biomedical, biomechanical, forensic, and other scientific research that will assist in the development of procedures and/or products with the general intent of improving the human condition.  Donated bodies or body parts may be provided to educators, students, researchers, and others at any Tulane campus, as well as to other educational institutions, researchers, non-profit entities, and for-profit entities for education and/or research purposes.

Are there religious objections to donating one's body to medical science?

The practice is widely supported.  However, if you have any concerns or are unsure of your religion's position, you are encouraged to consult with your religious advisor.

To which Louisiana institutions can I donate my body?

In Louisiana, you may donate your body to any of the medical or dental schools listed below, or to the Louisiana Bureau of Anatomical Services, which will designate a school to receive the body.

  • Tulane School of Medicine Donor Program
  • LSU School of Medicine at New Orleans
  • LSU School of Medicine at Shreveport
  • LSU School of Dentistry
  • Louisiana Bureau of Anatomical Services
How do I donate?

Contact one of the donor programs and request a Donation Agreement and accompanying information.  Tulane requires its Donation Agreement to be signed before a notary and two witnesses, who must also sign.

Does donation cost anything?

For donors who die within 200 miles of New Orleans, if Tulane accepts your body, your family will not have to pay any transportation expenses.  If a donor dies more than 200 miles from New Orleans and Tulane accepts your body, then your family will have to incur transportation charges to have your remains sent to a specified location in New Orleans within a specified time frame as determined by Tulane's Willed Body Program.  If the death occurs in Louisiana all other expenses incurred from initial pickup through cremation of ashes are borne by Tulane or other end-users of the donation.  For donors who die in a state other than Louisiana whose bodies are accepted by Tulane, the family is responsible for certain other costs --please see "Does Tulane accept out-of-state donations?" and "What if I reside in Louisiana, am registered to donate to Tulane's Willed Body Program,  and my death occurs in another state?" below.  Please also note that Tulane is not responsible for any cost associated with the donor arranging for the Donation Agreement to be notarized.

Can a donation take place against the wishes of the spouse or next of kin?

Under the Louisiana Anatomical Gift Act, the donor's wishes take legal precedence over the donor's next of kin.  However, Tulane may choose not to accept a body under conditions in which there is a known objection to donation or dissension among members of the family who otherwise would be legally responsible for final disposition of the body.  Donors are advised to notify all persons likely to be concerned of their intentions and of their plans to make a donation of their body.  In this way, any difference of opinion regarding a matter such as this may be resolved in advance.

Must a person be of legal age to sign a donation form?

Tulane's Willed Body Program requires that a donor be at least 18 years of age.

May I cancel or revoke my donation if I change my mind?

Yes, at any time, by sending a letter to Tulane's Willed Body Program at the address below, indicating your desire to cancel your donation.  Under current law, the letter must

  1. be signed by you
  2. be signed by two witnesses, at least one of whom is not your guardian, spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandchild, or grandparent
  3. indicate in the letter that is has been "signed and witnessed in accordance with law."

Willed Body Program
Tulane University School of Medicine
1430 Tulane Ave. Box SL-49
New Orleans, LA  70112

Can I or my family request a particular use of my body?

No.  The selection of donated bodies for specific educational and research purposes is made after the donor has died, and depends on a number of factors.

If Tulane accepts my body, will it be used to teach anatomy to students of Tulane University School of Medicine?

Every year, a number of donated bodies are used to teach anatomy to Tulane's medical school students.  However, donated bodies are also used for other important educational and research purposes.  Donated bodies may be used by educators, students, researchers, and others at any Tulane campus, as well as other (non-Tulane) educational institutions, researchers, non-profit entities, and for-profit entities in connection with education and research, with such goals as:

  1. assisting in the education and continuing education of current and future health care practitioners, anatomists, forensic scientists, and mortuary technicians
  2. biomedical, biomechanical, forensic, and other scientific research that may assist in the development of procedures and/or products with the general intent of improving the human condition.
Are bodies acceptable if the eyes or organs have been donated to other agencies?

With regard to Tulane's Willed Body Program, the answer is "yes," if eyes are donated, but "no" if major organs are donated.  If organ donation is desired, you can become an organ donor by registering on your driver's license when it is renewed or by calling one of the agencies listed below.  It is the donor's responsibility to contact and register with those agencies.  Tulane will cooperate with any such agencies, but we suggest that the need for viable organs for transplantation should take precedence over whole body donation for research and education.  The telephone numbers and internet addresses for several agencies are listed below:

Are there any restrictions on the condition of bodies accepted?

There are various conditions that can result in a body not being accepted.  Those conditions include, but are not limited to, bodies damaged by severe trauma, bodies with infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis, bodies that have been autopsied or already embalmed, bodies that are excessively emaciated or obese, bodies from which major organs have been removed, and bodies where excessive time has already passed since death.  Tulane may also refuse to accept a body for other reasons, including the lack of a need for the body at Tulane at the time of the donor's death.

How long is required for the use of the body?

This will vary according to the specific nature of the education or research use(s) to which each body is placed.  In most instances, there is a time lapse of at least one year between the death of the donor and completion of all uses, and the time required may be two years or even longer.

What if my death occurs away from home?

An identification card, stating that the bequest has been made, is provided to the donor.  This card should be carried in your purse or wallet at all times. (The donor would be wise to note on the card the name of the persons to be notified in the event of sudden and unexpected death.)  See also "Does Tulane accept out-of-state donations?" and "What if I reside in Louisiana, am registered to donate to Tulane's Willed Body Program, and my death occurs in another state?" below.

Does Tulane accept out-of-state donations?

Tulane ordinarily accepts donations only from residents of Louisiana and Mississippi.  Residents of all other states who wish to donate may want to locate the nearest medical school that accepts willed body donations.  Donors who die in a state other than Louisiana must have a family member, all at the family's expense, to arrange for the prompt transportation of the body to a funeral home, to arrange for the funeral home to hold the body until it can be picked up, and to assist the funeral home with obtaining and providing to Tulane a copy of the death certificate and any other necessary documentation.  Otherwise, the donation cannot be accepted by Tulane.  As is always the case, Tulane reserves the right to refuse any donation.  Depending on how far away the funeral home is from New Orleans, the donor's family may also be responsible for the expense of transporting the body from the out-of-state funeral home to a specified location in New Orleans.  See "Does donation cost anything?" above.

What if I reside in Louisiana, am registered to donate to Tulane's Willed Body Program, and my death occurs in another state?

For donors who die in another state, the family must, all at the family's expense, arrange for the prompt transportation of the body to a funeral home, arrange for the funeral home to hold the body until it can be picked up, and assist the funeral home with obtaining and providing to Tulane a copy of the death certificate and any other necessary documentation.  Otherwise, the donation cannot be accepted by Tulane.  As is always the case, Tulane reserves the right to refuse any donation.  Depending on how far away the funeral home is from New Orleans, the family of a donor who dies in another state may also be responsible for the expense of transporting the body from the out-of-state funeral home to a specified location in New Orleans.  See "Does donation cost anything?" above.

What if I move from Louisiana or Mississippi to a different state after having signed an agreement to donate my body to Tulane's Willed Body Program?

The original bequest should be revoked (see "May I cancel or revoke my donation if I change my mind?" above) and a substitute arrangement made with an in-state medical school near your new home.

How soon before my death can I register to donate to Tulane's Willed Body Program?

Your fully completed and notarized Donation Agreement must be on file with the Willed Body Program for thirty (30) days before you are considered a registered donor.  Only registered donors may be accepted by the Willed Body Program.

May a customary or traditional type of funeral service be held prior to the transfer of the body to the donor institution?

Because of the need to prepare the body for educational or research use, we are unable to accommodate a traditional funeral service with the body present.

What organization should my family contact to request a death certificate?

Louisiana death certificates can be obtained from:
Vital Records Registry
P.O. Box 60630
New Orleans, LA  70160-0630
(504) 219-4500

What happens when the educational and/or research uses of the body are concluded?

The remains will be cremated and the ashes will be disposed of at the direction of Tulane.  The cremated remains will not be returned to family members or other survivors.


* Note: The information contained in the questions and answers reflect the policies and procedures of Tulane's Willed Body Program as of the date of publication. The policies and procedures may be subject to change from time to time.