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Frequently Asked Questions

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Who can make a donation?

Anyone over age 18 is eligible to become a donor. Read this brochure, understand its contents and have all questions fully answered. Fill in and sign the Anatomical Gift Pledge form and return it to the program.

Are there any age limits regarding who is eligible to donate?

We will accept the donation of any individual 18 years of age and older. There is no upper age limit.

May I donate even if I have had an organ removed by surgery?


May I donate my body and also donate my organs to an organ bank for transplantation or research purposes?

A person may donate his or her eyes and/or brain, and still initiate a whole body donation to the program. However, the removal of other internal organs to be used for transplant, such as kidneys, heart, and lungs require extensive surgery and means that the body will not be acceptable for whole body donation.

Are there conditions under which a prospective donation will not be accepted?

The Anatomical Gift Program reserves the right not to accept a prospective donation if, in the professional judgment of the program such donation is not suitable to accomplish the aims and goals of the program.

The conditions under which a prospective donation will not be suitable for health education purposes include, but are not limited to, an individual who:

  • Exceeds accepted weight to height ratio
  • Has MS, ALS and/or similar conditions that would affect the study of tissue and muscle
  • Is a carrier of contagious organisms, including but not limited to HIV, viral hepatitis or tuberculosis
  • Is not delivered to the Anatomical Gift Program within the required 48 hours from death
  • Has a condition that presents health risks to the program staff and/or health professions students
  • Is under 18 years of age

I thought the methods used to preserve a body, killed all microorganisms. Why, then, will the program not accept a donation from someone that has or is a carrier of contagious organisms?

Infectious/ contagious organisms that are responsible for diseases such as AIDS, hepatitis, tuberculosis and others pose a serious safety hazard to anyone who comes in contact with them. There is a lack of good evidence demonstrating that the methods used to preserve bodies will inactivate (kill) these organisms. To reduce the risk of contact or exposure to any infection, the program will not accept donations from anyone exposed to infectious disorders. If a pledge/prospective donor contracts any communicable disease please notify the Anatomical Gift Program so that the pledge can be removed from the program file.

What if I change my mind?

A pledge may be withdrawn at anytime. Please contact the program if you wish to have your pledge removed from the program file.

Should I inform my relatives about my wish?

As a registered donor to the Anatomical Gift Program, you should inform your family about your decision to donate your body; in particular your next of kin. Make your decision known to your relatives, close friends, clergy, attorney, etc.

What if my family does not agree with my wish to donate?

If you anticipate or expect your next of kin not to agree with your wish, call the program office (315-464-4348) for information on appointing an agent that can carry out your wishes.

How will donation of my body benefit the education of health professionals?

Health professionals from first year medical students, physical therapy and physician assistant residents and faculty at Upstate Medical University benefit greatly from the opportunity to engage in active, hands-on learning about the intricacies of the human body.

Donations made to the Anatomical Gift Program are the responsibility of Upstate Medical University.

Donations may be provided for use by an institution of higher education in New York State in which gross anatomy is an integral and required component of an accredited program to educate health professionals, provided the institution is licensed by the New York State Department of Health as a whole body user.

May I designate a particular purpose for the use of my body?

You may note your preference on the donor form, however all donors are accepted only as an unrestricted anatomical gift as medical advancements and educational needs vary.

What steps should be taken to release my body to SUNY Upstate Medical University upon my death?

The person responsible for making the arrangements to donate the body of the deceased should contact the Anatomical Gift Program (315-464-4348) promptly to determine if the donation can be accepted. The program requires that the donation be delivered to the university within 48 hours after death. As required by law, only a licensed funeral home can arrange the transportation of a deceased person.

Will the donation be affected if an autopsy is performed?

A body which has been autopsied or is subject to a medical examiner’s request for autopsy generally cannot be accepted for donation.

What about a viewing or funeral services?

To accomplish the objectives of the program, it is imperative that the donation be delivered to the program within 48 hours after death. The program cannot accept a donor that has been previously embalmed.

What happens if I die some distance away from my home or SUNY Upstate Medical University?

If the distance makes transporting the body impractical, a representative of the Anatomical Gift Program will provide a list of medical schools that may accept the donation geographically closer to the place of death.

What happens to my remains?

Upon completion of studies, at the expense of the Anatomical Gift Program, the remains will be cremated at a New York state licensed crematory and the cremated remains if requested will be returned to the next of kin or designated recipient.

Will all my remains be returned?

There may be an occasion when the donation provides a unique educational opportunity for health care professionals. On such occasions, the Anatomical Gift Program at SUNY Upstate Medical University reserves the right to retain a minimal portion of the donation for archival purposes. Archiving of such specimens will be conducted and retained only at Upstate Medical University and no other institution.

When will the cremains be returned?

The time varies with each donation. The maximum time is two years. Many donations are kept for a shorter period of time. A letter is sent to the designated recipient when the cremated remains are available. The cremated remains could be sent by registered mail requiring a signature or arrangements can be made to receive the cremated remains in person. If there is a change of address for the designated recipient the new address should be provided to the program. If there has been a change of the recipient, that person’s name and address should be provided to the Anatomical Gift Program.

Will a report of findings concerning the probable cause of death be provided to the person responsible for my remains?

No. Only a licensed pathologist is qualified to provide information regarding cause and findings of death.