Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue

Body Donation Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. As a donor to your program, what happens when I die? How do you know when I die, and how will my body get to your facility?

We will be contacted by your family or physician if they are aware of your wishes. At that time, transportation arrangements should be made by your family if beyond our 100 mile limit. Otherwise, we will transport your body to our facility. Please be aware that we cannot remove donor bodies from hospice facilities, nursing homes or private residences so a funeral home will need to be called, even if the death occurs within 100 miles of Knoxville.

2. What happens to my body after it is donated?

Once we receive a body, we assign an identifying number and we place it at the Anthropology Research Facility (ARF), our outdoor laboratory for research and training. All of donations go to the ARF and are allowed to decompose naturally. Once the body is skeletonized, we recover the skeletal remains and clean them further. The cleaned bones are accessioned into the UTK Donated Skeletal Collection and are labeled with the identifying number. At this step, the remains are inventoried, measured and other data are collected. Once in the collection, all skeletal remains are utilized by researchers from all over the world.

3. If I fill out the paperwork to donate my body to you, can I visit the research facility first? Can I pick out where I want to be placed upon my death?

We do NOT host visitors to our research facility. This is to ensure the anonymity of the donors and protect the integrity of the research. You may make a special request regarding placement of your body after death, for instance “I do not wish to be buried or placed in water”.

4. Do I have to be “pre-registered” to donate my body?

No, your family or a family representative can contact us after your death and make arrangements.

5. Can I fax my forms or submit photocopies?

You may email your completed and signed paperwork to the FAC at Please ensure that any scan of your paperwork is readable and includes the entire page. Please do not fax your forms to us.

6. Do I have to have the donation forms notarized?

No, the donation forms do not need to be notarized. We do not require notarized documents. However, if you wish to have your forms notarized, the notary can act as your witness.

7. If I decide to donate my body to the FAC after my death, should I put this in my will?

Of course you may put this is your will, but keep in mind that a will is typically read after the funeral. Please make sure that your family knows what your wishes are prior to a funeral.

8. What is the difference between the FAC Body Donation Program and a medical school donation program?

We use the body/remains for research and teaching. We do not return the remains to the family after a period of time. We do not embalm the body.

Medical schools typically embalm a body for teaching anatomy to medical students. After use the body may be cremated and, at the request of the family, the remains are returned.

9. Does my body need to be embalmed?

No, in fact we require that bodies NOT be embalmed. It is not required by law in most states. The exceptions to this are for transporting a body out of the states of Alaska, New Jersey, and Alabama. Typically this is when they are transported via common carrier. However exceptions may be made for anatomical gifts. We can work with the funeral home in these states to ensure proper transport.

10. Do you return remains or cremains to my family after you are finished with the research?

We do not return remains to the family because we continue to utilize the skeletal remains in research indefinitely. The skeleton is retained and curated in the UTK Donated Skeletal Collection.

11. Do you cremate the body?

No, we generally do not cremate the remains as our emphasis is skeletal studies.

12. Would there be any reason why you would not accept my body as a donation?

Yes, we decline the donation of individuals who have infectious diseases such as COVID-19, HIV, any form of Hepatitis, tuberculosis, or antibiotic resistant infections such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

However, we DO ACCEPT these individuals IF they are cremated. We simply ask that the cremains NOT be pulverized. This is a simple request made to the crematory by either the family or funeral home.

13. If I want to donate my body to the FAC, does that mean I cannot donate my organs or tissues?

You can donate your organs and tissues and still remain a body donor to our program. We should be contacted after organ donation is complete.

14. I want to donate my body, but my family really does not like that idea or does not agree with me. If I sign the paperwork and get it into my will, can my family prevent my final wish of body donation?

Regardless of what you have arranged, signed or instructed, your family or next-of-kin has the final say. We will not fight your family for your body. We urge you to convince your family that the donation is what you want at your death.

15. Do I need to tell my family now that I want to donate my body?

We strongly recommend that you discuss your wishes with your family. If you do not tell them, they may not have any idea of your wishes. This may result in a traditional funeral, burial, or cremation of your body rather than donation.

16. I like the idea of donating my body, but cannot decide what I want to do. Can I make a monetary donation?

Yes, we gladly accept financial donations and they are a tremendous help to our program. If you wish to do this, please contact us so that we may direct any of these donations into the FAC.

17. I have always wanted to be left out in the woods to decompose naturally. Do you honor any special requests for the placement of my body? Or any kind of special request regarding the use of my body?

Yes, we will attempt to honor any special requests within reason. This may be limited by the particular research requirements ongoing at the time of donation. We put all requests on file so that they are known to us when we receive a body.

18. How much longer will you be accepting body donations?

We do not anticipate a time where we will not be accepting body donations.

19. Do you provide any payment to my family when I donate my body? Do I get paid for donating my body?

We do not provide any payment to you or the family.

20. How much does it cost to donate my body to you program?

The FAC does not charge for body donations. The only expense may be as a result of transporting your body to our facility if you are more than 100 miles from Knoxville, outside the state of Tennessee, or if you are at a private residence or hospice.

21. I live in a state other than Tennessee but I would like to donate my body to your facility. Do you take out-of-state donations?

Yes, out-of-state- donations are accepted. The body must transported to us. Arrangements must be made by the family or next-of-kin. We strongly encourage you to make pre-arrangements with a local funeral home for the transportation of your remains prior to your death.

22. Can I visit a family member who has donated his body to your facility?

Once skeletal remains are accessioned into the UTK Donated Skeletal Collection, you may visit the remains of a family member. A visit to the outdoor research facility is not permitted.

23. How do I contact you in order to visit the remains of a family member?

In order to visit a family member, you should contact us at the FAC. We will provide you with the status of your family member and make arrangements for your visitation.

24. I am trying to make arrangements for a family member to donate to your program. Who do I call?

If you are a representative to the family (POA, next-of-kin, or funeral home) you will need to contact the Anthropology Department directly in order to make arrangements for a donation (865-806-5106). There are separate forms for donation of deceased individuals.