Making a donation

Mayo Clinic requires a signed consent form for whole-body donation. The gift of whole-body donation is authorized by the individual, but the legal next of kin is responsible for carrying out the donor's wishes. If the next of kin opposes the donation, it will not occur. Mayo Clinic advises donors to notify their families of their intentions. See initiating the donation process.

Body donation procedure

Mayo Clinic's procedure for accepting a whole-body donation begins with notification of a donor's death. A health care representative from the hospital, medical facility or hospice organization where the death occurs should contact Mayo Clinic's donor program coordinator. The coordinator will review acceptance protocol to determine if the donation can be accepted. If the potential donor meets the acceptance criteria, the next of kin will be contacted to determine if whole-body donation should proceed. Transportation of the body to Mayo Clinic will then be arranged.

If the death does not occur in a medical facility or under hospice care, local law enforcement personnel should be notified and the coroner or medical examiner will determine if an autopsy is necessary. If no further investigation is required, Mayo Clinic will be notified and proceed with the acceptance procedure.

Typically studies of donated bodies are completed in six to 15 months. Mayo Clinic offers biocremation as a means of final disposition. The biocremated remains can be returned to the family or interred in the Mayo vault at Oakwood Cemetery in Rochester. If traditional cremation or burial is the donor's wish, the donor's estate is responsible for the cost of the casket and all funeral expenses.

Criteria and considerations for donation

Age
Prospective donors should not consider themselves too old for whole-body donation. Unlike most organ donation programs, age is rarely a factor in whole-body donation.

Whole-body donation after organ donation
An individual might not be eligible for whole-body donation after an organ donation. Mayo Clinic's donor program coordinator will consult with the organ procurement organization to evaluate the potential for whole-body donation acceptance.

Specific disease study
Mayo Clinic's anatomical bequest program does not typically accept bodies donated for specific disease research. However, allowances are made to accommodate the requests of a Mayo Clinic primary physician or specialist.

Denial of a donation

Mayo Clinic might not accept a bequest if:

  • The potential donor has an infectious or contagious disease (such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B or hepatitis C, prion diseases).
  • The next of kin objects to the donation of the body.
  • The body is not acceptable for anatomical study (extremely emaciated or extremely obese).
  • The body has been autopsied, mutilated, or is decomposed.
  • Donations are not needed at the time.

Mayo Clinic encourages all potential donors to have an alternate plan in case the donation isn't accepted.

Payment

There is no payment for body donation, as explicitly stated by law in every state. Mayo Clinic has limited funds to reimburse families for transportation and funeral home expenses for a whole-body donation. Any expenses beyond our fund limit are the responsibility of the donor's estate. If the donor dies out of state, and the cost of transporting the body to Mayo Clinic is too expensive, the next of kin can contact a nearby medical school about making the donation there.