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Willed Body Program

Importance of Body Donation

Anatomy is the study of the structure of the human body and it is the basis of all medical knowledge of the human body. The gift of body donation is an indispensable aid in medical education and research and is greatly appreciated. The need for whole body donations is great and will be further increased by the demand for more doctors, dentists, nurses, and other health care practitioners. Your donation relieves your next-of-kin of making a decision of this magnitude under the handicap of grief. Your request for donation protects both the College of Medicine and your survivors and simplifies the procedure at the time of death.

To receive the maximum benefit from a contribution, the College may transfer, at its discretion, a body to other teaching or research institutions within the State of Texas. At the time a donor makes the written bequest to donate his/her body, the Anatomical Board of the State of Texas is authorized to transport the willed/donated body out of the State of Texas in the event that the holding institution and the Executive Secretary of the Board have determined that an excess of bodies currently exists in the State of Texas.

About The Willed Body Program

The Texas A&M Health Science Center produces some of the world's future physicians and an important part of their education is the ability to study the structures of the human body first hand. This would not be possible without the greatly appreciated donations to our Willed Body Program. Every year several generous individuals bequest their bodies to be donated for study after their deaths providing this first hand experience benefit to our future physicians; for their thoughtfulness they have our appreciation and respect.

If you or a relative has an interest in the TAMHSC Willed Body Program and would like more information please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have or to request an information packet. You can refer to our Frequently Asked Questions page at any time for information about the program. Forms for donation to the program are also available online if you would like to enroll.

Respect for Body Donors

Family and friends should be comforted by the knowledge that all personnel who work for the Texas A&M University College of Medicine and its students hold the greatest respect for those who have donated their body. Our teaching laboratory is restricted to medical students, teaching faculty, necessary staff, and health-related professionals. The contribution that participants make to the Willed Body Program is fully recognized and appreciated by all.

Upon completion of the human anatomy course, first-year students annually hold a memorial service to honor those who donated their bodies to the Willed Body Program. Class of 2011 president Daniel Binz gave the following speech at the memorial:

"This memorial service is our way of honoring and saying thank you to these individuals and their friends and families for giving us this opportunity to further our knowledge of the human body is such an intimate way. They have provided us with real life, hands-on experience that is more than any textbook has to offer. In my mind, it takes a very brave and selfless individual to donate their body to strangers, and it goes without saying that we really respect and honor their decisions to do so.

For generations, taking human anatomy has been a stepping stone and rite of passage for medical students, and this integral part of becoming a physician would be lost without the opportunity these people have so graciously given us. We should take pride in knowing that they believe enough in what we can accomplish to make this commitment for the future of medicine. Their desire to educating the next generation of physicians is something we should hold near and dear to our hearts and something we should try to incorporate into our future practices.

I would like everyone to remember that these were truly our first patients, and have touched our lives and the lives of every patient we will see throughout our careers. The impact they have made has begun to shape us into the great physicians we all strive to be. It's humbling to know that they have found a way to give life, in their time of passing, to so many different people.

I would like to close by saying that we are eternally grateful for their gift and sacrifice. The memory of them will stay with us, and will be passed on to our patients through the healing and comfort we can provide because of these sacrifices they made and opportunities they have given us. We cannot say thank you enough for this uniquely enriching experience that they have bestowed upon us. We are indebted to these generous teachers."

 

Final Disposition of Remains

We usually complete our studies within four years; after our studies are completed the remains are cremated and scattered or buried at a local cemetery in the Bryan/College Station area. However, because some donor families would like to receive the cremated remains, arrangements for return of the ashes to the family can be made by writing the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics requesting the ashes be returned; please provide your relationship to the donor, your name, address, and telephone number. Please note that the request must be made by closest next of kin.

Condition of Acceptance or Refusal of Donation

Bodies willed to the Texas A&M University College of Medicine are used mainly in the education of physicians, and to a minor extent in medical research. However, the value of a body is greatly diminished if all parts are not intact. Therefore, bodies from which parts have been removed for transplant purposes or during the course of an autopsy will not be accepted. Our Program does not compete with other programs that make organs and tissues available for transplantation or with those that promote postmortem studies necessary for the maintenance of quality in medical care. All those efforts offer benefits to society, but since the needs of each program exclude mutual use of the body, the donor or survivors must make a clear choice in how the body will be used. Exceptions to this general rule are that the eyes may be donated to any eye bank (through a separate willing process).

The Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics cannot guarantee acceptance of a willed or donated body. A body will not be acceptable if any of the following conditions are present at time of death:

  1. Individuals under the age of 21
  2. Organs or parts (other than eyes) have been removed at or following the time of death, such as for transplantation or in an autopsy, or an amputation
  3. Autopsy
  4. Visible decomposition of the body prior to embalming
  5. Severe trauma, such as death from drowning, burning, homicide, or motor vehicle accident
  6. Large open wounds or ulceration of the body, or excessive edema that would hinder proper preservation of the body – e.g. weeping or unhealed surgical wounds, Stage 3 or 4 bed sores
  7. Contagious diseases, especially viral diseases such as HIV/AIDS, virulent herpes, hepatitis, or some of the dementias
  8. Excessive obesity, emaciation, or body contractures (fetal position)
    • Maximum weight accepted is 225 lbs
    • Excessive height – over 6’1” height, or 6’3” total linear length
    • Excessive chest or abdomen depth – 14” maximum
    • Excessive emaciation – e/g 5’0” 80 lbs. 6’1” 125 lbs.
  9. Body contractures – e.g. body in fetal position (LE’s must extend to 15o of normal, Shoulders should touch the surface of the bed, palm of hands must be accessible)
  10. Excessive jaundice, bruising, or skin tears

In summary, the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics reserves the right to refuse any body that cannot be used for its identified educational or research endeavors.

Information

Arrangements for eye removal should be made by the family and the procedure performed before the body is transported to the college. Individuals seeking information on eye donation should contact:

Lions Eye Bank of Texas
Texas Medical Center
6565 Fannin, NC-205
Houston, Texas 77030
Phone: (713) 798-5500

Information on other types of organ and tissue donation may be obtained through :

Life Gift Organ Donation Center
5615 Kirby Drive, Suite 900
Houston, Texas 77005
Phone: (713) 523-GIFT (4438)
Fax: (713) 737-8110

Memorial Gifts

Memorial contributions for deceased family members and/or friends may be made to the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics. These gifts will be used to improve our educational facilities and teaching materials, thus having a direct impact on our students' education. A memorial contribution may be made to the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics. Please designate the Anatomical Gift Fund as the recipient account and include the name of the person in whose memory the contribution is being made.

Your check should be made payable to and sent to:
Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics
Texas A&M Health Science Center College Of Medicine
Medical Research and Education Building
8447 Riverside Pkwy
Bryan, TX 77807-3260

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Why are human bodies donated to the Texas A&M Health Science Center?
A. They are an indispensable aid in medical education and research. The basis of all medical knowledge is human anatomy. Human anatomy can be learned only by a study of the human body. Without this study there could be no doctors, no surgery, and no alleviation of disease or repair of injury.

Q. Is there an urgent need for body donations?
A. The need is great and will be further increased by the demand for more doctors, dentists, nurses, and other health care practitioners.

Q. Is donating one's body difficult or complicated?
A. No, it is a very simple and easy process. One copy of the Bequest Form must be completed, signed, witnessed by two people and returned to the College of Medicine.

Q. Must a person be over 21 years of age to sign a donation form?
A. Yes.

Q. What procedure should be followed upon my death?
A. If possible, contact one of the four Funeral Homes: Callaway-Jones Funeral Home @ 979-822-3717, Hillier Funeral Home @ 979-822-1571, Memorial Funeral Home @ 979-823-8125, or Trevino-Smith Funeral Home @ 979-822-2424, agents for The Texas A&M University System Health Science Center. Otherwise contact a local funeral home, as a funeral director must be contacted. The funeral director is responsible for filing the proper papers with the Board of Health. He must secure the cause of death with the attending physician's signature, get vital family information, and information as to the disposition of the body. He must also do a light embalming since the time required to file proper papers and delivery of the body to the Anatomical Board may be several hours to a day or more.

Q. Can a donation take place against the wishes of the spouse or next-of-kin?
A. Under the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, your wishes take legal precedence over those of your next of kin. However, The Texas A&M University System Health Science Center is not inclined to accept a body under conditions in which there is an objection to donation or dissension among members of the family who are legally responsible for final disposition of the body. Donors are advised to notify all persons, who may be concerned, of their intentions and of their plans to make a donation of their body.

Q. What is the purpose of your donation?
A. Your donation relieves the next-of-kin of making a decision of this magnitude under the handicap of grief. Your donation protects both the College of Medicine and your survivors and simplifies the procedure at the time of death.

Q. Are there any restrictions on the condition of bodies accepted?
A. Most bodies are acceptable. However, bodies willed to the College are used mainly in the education of physicians, and to a minor extent in medical research. The value of a body is greatly diminished if all parts are not intact. Therefore, bodies from which parts have been removed for transplant purposes or during the course of an autopsy will not be accepted for the Willed Body Program. Our program is not attempting to compete with other programs that make organs and tissues available for transplantation or with those that promote postmortem studies necessary for the maintenance of quality in medical care. All these efforts offer benefits to society, but since the needs of each program exclude mutual use of the body, the donor or survivors must make a clear choice in how the body will be used. Exceptions to this general rule are that the eyes (corneas) may be donated to any eye bank (through a separate willing process) and that bodies on which recent a surgery that has healed will usually be accepted.
The Department of Neuroscience & Experimental Therapeutics cannot guarantee acceptance of a willed body. A body will not be acceptable if any of the following conditions are present at time of death:

  1. Organs or parts (other than eyes) have been removed at or following the time of death, such as for transplantation or in an autopsy, or amputation.
  2. Decomposition of the body prior to embalming
  3. Severe trauma, such as death from drowning, burning, homicide, or motor vehicle accident
  4. Open wounds, skin tears or ulceration of the body; bed sores; recent unhealed surgery
  5. Contagious diseases, especially viral, such as virulent herpes, hepatitis, or some of the dementias
  6. Excessive size (length or girth), obesity, edema, emaciation or body contractures (fetal position)
  7. Jaundice or excessive bruising


In summary, the Department of Neuroscience & Experimental Therapeutics reserves the right to refuse any body that is, in the opinion of the Department, unfit for use.

Q. Can the next of kin donate the body of a recently deceased relative to medical science?
A. Yes. The person or persons legally entitled to the custody of the body may make this donation by signing a Donation of Decedent form.

Q. What if I have expressed a wish to donate my body but neglect to sign the Bequest Form before death occurs?
A. Your survivors can carry out your wishes by immediately notifying the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics of your death and then signing a Donation of Decedent form.

Q. May I alter, cancel or revoke my donation if I change my mind?
A. Yes, at any time by writing the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics.

Q. Should the bequeathal of my body be made a provision of my will?
A. It may be, although, this is not necessary. If provisions are made only in your will, the body may not be usable by the Anatomical Board since there is usually a considerable delay before a will is probated. Therefore, we request that the Bequest Form be signed by the donor and two competent witnesses. It is strongly suggested that the individual have a pre-need arrangement with the funeral director of his/her choice.

Q. Will I or my family be paid for my body?
A. No. Medical schools are forbidden by law to purchase a person's body.

Q. Are bodies acceptable if the eyes have been donated to the Eye Bank?
A. Yes. However, the removal of other organs may reduce the value of the body for medical education.

Q. How long is required for the scientific study?
A. In most instances there is a time lapse of about two years between the arrival of the body at the Health Science Center and completion of the study, but the time required may be up to five years.

Q. What if my death occurs away from home?
A. An identification card, stating that the bequest has been made, is provided by the Department of Neuroscience & Experimental Therapeutics. This card should be carried by you at all times. At time of death, contact a local funeral home, and have them contact one of the funeral homes listed above.

Q. What costs would I incur if my death occurs away from home?
A. The donating family is responsible for possible mileage charges outside of a 200-mile radius of Bryan/College Station that may be charged by the transporting funeral home.

Q. What happens when your studies are concluded?
A. The remains will be cremated. If a request in writing by the donor or by the closest next of kin at the time the Bequest is received at the time of Donation, the Department of Neuroscience & Experimental Therapeutics will return the ashes to the listed relatives for final disposition. There is a modest charge of $100.00 for this service. When we have completed our studies the family will be notified studies have completed. When we have received the check or money order made payable to TAMUS-HSC the ashes will be returned to family via certified mail. If the ashes are returned to the family, the expense for the final disposition of the ashes is that of the surviving relatives. If no such written request is made, the ashes will be buried or scattered in a local Bryan/College Station cemetery at the expense of the Department.

Q. What happens if I wish for the College of Medicine to return ashes but they cannot find me?
A. The College of Medicine will try its best to locate you. It is critical for you to keep your contact information up to date with us. Should we not be able to contact you, the ashes will be stored for an additional 12 months then scattered or buried.

Q. What happens if I die while outside the State of Texas?
A. A medical school in that state should be contacted, as many are willing to accept donations.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, CALL (979) 436-0316 or write:
Tami Seydler
Texas A&M Health Science Center
Department of Neuroscience & Experimental Therapeutics
Medical Research and Education Building
8447 State Highway 47
Bryan, TX 77807-3260

Contact Information

For further information about the Willed Body Program or to donate your body, please contact:

  • Tami Seydler
    Willed Body Administrator
    Texas A&M Health Science Center
    Medical Research and Education Building
    8447 Riverside Pkwy
    Bryan, TX 77807-3260
    Phone : 979-436-0318
    Fax : 979-436-0086
    E-mail: tseydler@tamu.edu
  • John K Hubbard, PhD, PT
    Chair, Anatomical Board of the State of Texas
    Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics
    Medical Research and Education Building
    8447 Riverside Pkwy
    Bryan, TX 77807-3260
    Phone : 979-436-0789
    E-mail: jkhubbard@tamu.edu
  • Jeremy Delgado
    Anatomical Laboratory Manager
    Texas A&M Health Science Center
    Medical Research and Education Building
    8447 Riverside Pkwy
    Bryan, TX 77807-3260
    Phone : 979-436-0792
    Fax : 979-436-0086
    E-mail: Jdelgado86@tamu.edu
  • Farida Sohrabji, Ph.D.
    Professor and Interim Head
    Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics
    Texas A&M Health Science Center
    Medical Research and Education Building
    8447 Riverside Pkwy
    Bryan, TX 77807-3260
    Phone : 979-436-0315
    E-mail: f-shorabji@tamu.edu
  • Callaway-Jones Funeral Home
    3001 South College Avenue
    Bryan, TX 77802-2512
    Phone: 979-822-3717
  • Memorial Funeral Home
    1515 South College
    Bryan, Texas 77801
    Phone: 979-823-8125
  • Trevino-Smith Funeral Home
    2610 South Texas Avenue
    Bryan, TX 77802
    Phone: 979-822-2424

Member of the Anatomical Board of the State of Texas.

Agent for the College of Medicine Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics.