Frequently Asked Questions for the Anatomical Donation Program

  1. What is Anatomical Donation? There is a continuing need for human bodies for medical education. Voluntary donation by concerned individuals is relied on for the necessary anatomical training of physicians and other medical personnel.

  2. What procedure do I follow when death occurs? Notification of death is made by calling Meharry Medical College at 615.327-6944 during office hours 8:30 a.m. - 5:00p.m. On nights, weekends, holidays Please call: 615.327.6691 (for further instructions) Or Campus Security at 615.327.6254

  3. How soon after death should I call? We should be informed immediately after the time of death. When you call about a donation, the appropriate staff will be contacted. If there is a delay of more than 24 hours we will not accept the donation. Following a few pertinent screening questions, we will make arrangements to have the body removed and transported to Meharry Medical College.

  4. Does the person making the donation need to be an adult? Yes. Donors must be 18 years old and of sound mind to donate for the purposes of scientific study.

  5. Will my family receive a report of your findings? We do not conduct autopsies therefore no reports are prepared. Bodies are used in medical education for teaching purposes only and no record of pathological findings are kept by students.

  6. How do I register to donate a body? Forms authorizing the donation of a body may be obtained by calling 615.327.6944 or writing to:
    Anatomical Donation Program
    Department of Professional/Medical Education
    1005 Dr. D. B. Todd Blvd.
    Nashville, TN 37208

  7. Will the family incur any expense? Meharry will be responsible for removal of body from place of death to Meharry Medical College, embalming and cremation of the donated bodies. Meharry Medical College is not responsible for transportation costs when a funeral home or other carrier is contacted prior to our notification of the donation. Also, obituaries, death certificates and other services not specifically mentioned above.

  8. Do you accept monetary contributions? Monetary contributions to the Anatomical Donation Program are gratefully accepted but are not required. However, if you are led to do so, your contribution allows us to provide greater support for medical education and research. Please send contributions to: Institutional Advancement
    Office of Development
    Meharry Medical College
    1005 Dr. D. B. Todd Blvd.
    Nashville, TN 37208

  9. Are out-of-state donations accepted? Yes, however our preference is that you make your donation closer to your home state. We will travel a distance of 200 miles from our campus to include nearby cities in the State of Kentucky and Northern Alabama.

  10. What reasons would cause a body to be declined? A body may be rejected due to the following:
  • Has a history of contagious disease (hepatitis, HIV-AIDS, Creutefeldt- Jacob)
  • An autopsy has been performed
  • The donor is considered over the weight limit (175 lbs. for men; 175 lbs. for women)
  • Any organs have been donated other than the eyes

11. Is there a memorial service conducted for the donors?

Yes, an annual memorial service is held in May of each year for those desiring to have Meharry bury them in a consecrated cemetery plot during a joint memorial service held once a year with Vanderbilt University Donation Program. Families are invited to attend and many bring flowers to place at the grave site; also clergy are invited to offer prayer and consolation.

12. Can funerals be planned before a body donation?

Yes, however, it must be conducted within a 72 hour period. We will require that our office be contacted in advance so that specific instructions may be provided to assure the body usable when it arrives at our institution.

13. Can my body be accepted if I wish to donate my organs?

No. When the donor preference is to donate organs, we cannot accept the body. Having the whole body in tact is necessary for purposes of teaching Gross Anatomy. There is one exception; we will allow extraction of the eyes for cornea removal and donation.

14. What death benefits may be available?

There are several government and private benefits that may be applied for following the death of a donor. Social Security is available to spouses and the minor children of the donor. Veteran Administration benefits include some funeral home costs, a cemetery plot, a U.S flag, and a grave marker. Other sources to check: insurance policies, credit or trade unions, fraternal or professional organizations, railroad retirement benefits, pension funds and medical benefits.

15. How long will the study last?

The normal period of study is two years, sometimes considerably longer. However, as soon as the cremains are ready, the family is notified and their desire for final disposition is requested.

16. Who will prepare the death certificate?

We will ascertain the data necessary for preparation of the death certificate from family members, medical records or designated persons and file it with the county health department where death occurred. Once filed with the county health department, the family will be responsible for securing copies they may need.

17. Is there an urgent need for body donations?

Meharry Medical College is unique in that it is one of two medical schools in a city the size of Nashville. There is significant cooperative education and research efforts between the two universities but our gifts programs operate independently. Meharry being the smaller school has the greater need. Our program is open for registration year long and reaches further geographically.

18. How will the body be used?

Most bodies are used to teach medical, dental and physical therapy students in our Gross Anatomy Course.

19. What happens to the body when the study is completed?

Once the study is complete, the dissected remains are cremated. Families are notified and are requested to indicate their desire for final disposition; cremains may be returned via U.S Mail, they may be picked up at our office, or they may be buried in our cemetery plot at the annual Service of Memory held usually in the month of May.