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Questions and Answers

Importance of the Gift Body Program.

The gift of one's body allows students of all educational levels to learn and understand the complexities of the human body in a far better manner than books or computer programs can ever do. Students of all types: medical, physical therapy and occupational therapy students taking gross anatomy for the first time, advanced medical students who return to assimilate anatomical and clinical knowledge, residents studying their chosen field in extreme depth, or practicing physicians developing or learning new techniques are given the opportunity to learn from the body itself.

Missouri Laws concerning Gift Body Donation

The gift of one's body after death is governed by the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act of the state of Missouri which became law in 1969. Sections 194.210 to 194.290 of the Missouri Revised Statutes are cited as the Act. It has provided uniformity with similar laws of other states.

What to do when interested in becoming a Gift Body Donor:

Becoming a future donor is easy. Donor forms can be requested from the Center for Anatomical Science and Education by telephoning 314-977-8027. The requester is sent two sets of forms with an instruction sheet. The forms must be completed and signed in the presence of a notary public. The form marked "Return to Saint Louis University" must be returned to the Center for Anatomical Science and Education and include the individual's original signature and the original stamp/seal and signature of the notary. A wallet card with instructions will be sent to the donor. The second copy of the gift form should be kept with the individual's personal files. Following completion of the forms and informing the family of the desire there is nothing more to be done until death.

What to do when death occurs:

At the time of death the Center for Anatomical Science and Education should be contacted to verify the donation. The family gives the signed donation forms to a funeral home director or a transporting company official. They in turn deliver the unembalmed body with the proper papers to the Center for Anatomical Science and Education of Saint Louis University School of Medicine. The transportation to the medical school is the only expense paid by the family or the estate of the donor. It is suggested that inquiry concerning the charges be made prior to authorizing the transportation and delivery. The funeral director or transport company will take care of the necessary paperwork regarding the death certificate.

Memorial/Thanksgiving services

Each fall a memorial service in thanksgiving for the donors is held on the Health Sciences Campus. It is organized by the first year medical students with assistance from faculty and the Medical School Campus Minister. The names of the current donors are placed in a basket and flowers are placed over the names during the service. The students do a splendid job in planning the service and honoring the donors. Following the service, the flowers are placed on the grave at the cemetery by the students. Also each fall the current donors are remembered as part of the Feast of All Souls service at Saint Francis Xavier (College) Church on the main campus. At that service the University remembers the lives of those members of the community as well as their families and friends and donors who have died the previous year.


Common questions asked about the gift body program

  1. Who and how does one become a Gift Body Donor?

    Any individual who is at least 18 years of age can become a gift body donor under the stated conditions. A donation of another's body may be made after death by an attorney in fact under the durable power of attorney, by the next of kin, or by a guardian. This type of donation must be acceptable to the gift body program as determined by its directors.


  2. What if I change my mind?

    The intent to be a gift body donor may be revoked at anytime. The individual must state in writing that he/she no longer wishes to be a donor. The donor will receive by return mail the revoked form.


  3. What if my family disagrees with my wishes to donate after I die?

    The Gift Body Program encourages all donors to share their wish for whole body donation with their family members. However, if the next of kin does not wish to carry out the donor's wishes, the Gift Body Program will usually abide.


  4. Are all bodies accepted by the gift body program?

    Bodies with a communicable disease, such as HIV, hepatitis B or C, tuberculosis, etc, which has not been arrested prior to death, will not be accepted under any circumstances.


  5. If my body is autopsied can it still be donated?

    If the question of an autopsy arises, the family should understand that permission must be received from the Center for Anatomical Science and Education, unless the autopsy is required by a legal authority. Many valuable things are learned from an autopsy, but the basic teaching of the organization of the human body is best learned from the careful study of the unautopsied body.


  6. If my organs are acceptable for transplant to a living individual can my body still be donated?

    No. Organs (other than eyes) may not be removed for transplant.


  7. What are the costs involved?

    The only expense that the family or estate incurs when there is a gift body is the transportation by a funeral director or transporting company. It is suggested that inquiry about the charges for transportation be made prior to authorizing delivery. The University pays NO expenses.


  8. What happens to the body?

    The body will be prepared for use by the Center for Anatomical Science and Education. Following the completion of studies the body will be cremated.


  9. What happens to the ashes? Can my family have them returned for burial?

    The ashes or cremains are commingled and buried at Sts. Peter and Paul Cemetery located at 7030 Gravois in the City of St. Louis. The ashes are buried during a service conducted by the Medical School Campus Minister and attended by faculty and staff of the Center for Anatomical Science and Education. At the site there is one common grave marker with the following inscription: "Saint Louis University and its students gratefully acknowledge the charity of those buried here who gave their remains for the advancement of medical science." No cremains are returned to the family. Upon request the family will be given directions to the grave site.


  10. What happens if I die away from the St. Louis metropolitan area?

    If a gift body donor dies outside of the St. Louis metropolitan area the same policies hold as if the death occurred in the St. Louis area. The Center for Anatomical Science and Education must be contacted by the funeral home outside of St. Louis for proper procedures. If the family does not want to donate to Saint Louis University because of the distance and costs, the Program Director will recommend another Medical School with a similar gift body program.


  11. Can there be a funeral service with the body present if my body is donated to Saint Louis University?

    Following death the body needs to be transported to the medical school as soon as possible for proper preparation. Therefore, the body can NOT be present at a funeral or memorial service. All donors and families are encouraged to have a memorial service, depending upon their own faith and beliefs, shortly after the death.

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