Willed Body Program

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding UK’s Willed Body Program

Willed Body Program Office:  859-323-5160

Body Donation Procedures

What is the procedure for donating a body for anatomical study?

At the present time we are no longer accepting new registrations for our program. If, in the future, we are able to open the registration this website will be updated. There are various reasons why we may not be able to accept an enrolled donor at the time of the donor’s death. These are listed under the question regarding refusal to accept an enrolled donor below.

Are any costs involved in the donation of one's body?

Death occurs within Fayette County, KY:

There is typically no expense to the family within Fayette County, KY. The University of Kentucky covers the following services at no expense to the donor or family: transportation of the body from site of death within Fayette County using Kentucky Mortuary Services at 859-278-8501, embalming procedures at UK and care of the body, cremation, and interment at the UK burial site or return of ashes (pick-up only).

Although the University of Kentucky Willed Body Program does not generally charge a fee for its services within Fayette County, KY, the donor’s family or legal representative may be responsible for certain costs. These costs can include:

  • Charges from funeral home such as transportation, preparation of legal documents, and professional services.

  • Costs of making alternate arrangements for final disposition if the donation cannot be completed for any reason.

  • Costs from other entities outside the University of Kentucky (see below for transportation outside of Fayette County). 

Death occurs outside Fayette County but within Kentucky:

If death occurs outside of Fayette County, KY the University of Kentucky will cover the following services at no expense to the donor or family: Embalming procedures at UK and care of the body, cremation, and interment at the UK burial site or return of ashes.

 We are unable to accept donations outside of the state of Kentucky. We do arrange for transportation of the body by Kentucky Mortuary Services from other counties within Kentucky. We do not cover the cost of transportation from the site of death to the University of Kentucky.  The next-of-kin is responsible for, and will be expected to pay at the time of service, the mileage for the transportation costs from the site of death to UK. This payment can be made by either cash, check or credit card to Kentucky Mortuary Services.

If I donate my body to the program, will I need the services of a funeral home for any reason?

It is not necessary to use a funeral home when donating a body. Transportation of the body is contracted by UK to a third party administrator performed by Kentucky Mortuary Services at (859) 278-8501. (Please read the previous FAQ, “Are any costs involved in the donation of one's body?” for details regarding any possible transportation charges).

Our administrator also performs the embalming process at UK and death-related paperwork in conjunction with the University of Kentucky. In some cases (i.e. death in the home outside of the immediate area of Lexington), the family members may wish to have an additional funeral home involved for the transportation of the body from the home to a local funeral home prior to transport by Kentucky Mortuary Services. The family is responsible for any additional costs in these situations.

Will it be possible to have a funeral for the deceased?

Unfortunately, it is not possible to hold a viewing or conduct a funeral for the donor due to the time constraints and preparation of the body at UK. However, most families hold a memorial service for their loved ones at their discretion and convenience. The University does not hold a ceremony or Celebration of Life event.

Why do you need to know my social security number and other information on the vital statistics page?

The information located on the vital statistics page is used to complete the death certificate at the time of death. If any of that information is missing, incorrect, or out-of-date, it will result in delays or wrong information on the official death certificate. It is the donor’s responsibility to keep us informed of any change in name, address, or next-of-kin so that we can keep your file current.

Do you need to have updates on my next-of-kin on the paperwork?

We recommend that you choose someone that will not likely precede you in death and that will remain someone who will maintain concern over the final disposition of your body. However, there are times that you may need to change your next-of-kin. It is important that you keep our program up to date on your next-of-kin. You may do this by sending a written statement of your change or calling us at 859-323-5160.

What happens if the donor moves to another state?

The donor should contact us to inform us of any relocation, and then contact a medical school in that state to arrange for donation. We are unable to accept donations outside of the state of Kentucky.

What if I change my mind; may I withdraw my decision to donate?

Yes, by notifying this office in writing at the address below:

Willed Body Program
College of Medicine, Dean’s Office
University of Kentucky
800 Rose Street, MN 238
Lexington, KY 40536
(859) 323-5160

Procedures at Time of Death: Call Kentucky Mortuary Service at 859-278-8501 

What does the family do if the donor dies during non-business hours of the College of Medicine?

Call Kentucky Mortuary Service at 859-278-8501. If the donor passes in a hospital with a morgue, the body may be stored there until the next working day. In all other cases, the body is to be transported by Kentucky Mortuary Service or a funeral director of your choice coordinated with Kentucky Mortuary Service at 859-278-8501.

Does the Willed Body Program ever refuse to accept a body?

Yes. Donors MUST be pre-registered with our program prior to death to assure consideration of acceptance at time of death. The family or your health care provider should be made aware that if the donor’s death is under any of the following circumstances, we will be unable to accept the body at time of death: 

  • Infectious disease such as HIV, Tuberculosis, Hepatitis, MRSA, VRE, Flesh-Eating Disease, West Nile Virus, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

  • Obesity [due to our preparation process generally a weight limit of 250 lbs. and height of 6’1” are limiting factors]

  • Has suffered a violent death

  • Missing limbs or appendages of any kind

  • Victim of suicide or homicide

  • An autopsy has occurred

  • Any stage IV decubitus (bed sores)

  • Presence of gangrene

  • Vital organs removed for transplantation purposes.

  • Recent treatment with therapeutic radionuclides

  • Refusal to pay the transportation costs at the time of service (Please read the previous FAQ, “Are any costs involved in the donation of one's body?” for details regarding any possible transportation charges).

Other circumstances such as advanced decomposition may also result in the inability to accept the body at the time of death.

To help avoid any surprise or disappointment, family members should be advised as early in the donation process as possible that the final determination on the suitability of a donation will be made after death. We suggest that the donor and next-of-kin develop alternative plans in the event we are unable to accept the body at the time of death.

Will you accept a body from which other donations have been given?

We cannot accept bodies from which other vital organs (brain, heart, lungs, kidney(s), liver) are removed.

What happens to the body after the Willed Body Program at the University of Kentucky receives it?

The body is prepared for a long-term study that can span 2 years or more. Students who are preparing to enter the health professions will study the bodies in a gross anatomy laboratory.

May the donor request a program in which he/she wishes to be studied?

We are unable to accept a donor for a specific project. Our policy is to use the donors as needed.

Will the body be studied at the University of Kentucky?

The majority of our donors are used for studies at the University of Kentucky and its locations in other areas of the state. Occasionally we receive a request from health professionals outside UK by another institution or entity within Kentucky as permitted by the RUAGL for education or research. If the request is approved, we supply a body with the following assurances that (a) the body will be kept in an appropriate and secured area, (b) the study is to be completed within a reasonable time frame, (c) that a human body is a mandatory requirement of the study, and (d) following completion of the study, the body must be returned to UK for cremation and disposition of ashes.

Who files for social security death benefits?

A family member, power of attorney, or executor is responsible for handling the filing for social security death benefits. We will complete the SSA-721 and fax it.

Who files for a death certificate? How long does it take to receive a death certificate?

Kentucky Mortuary Service, as licensed funeral directors, will begin the process of filing a death certificate by filling out our portion of the death certificate. The death certificate is then sent to the doctor listed on the provisional death report in order for them to complete their portion. We then verify that all the information is correct and send it to the office of vital statistics of the appropriate state. As of January 2015, the state of Kentucky is providing electronic registration, but this is dependent on the medical doctor registering for the online system. If the doctor is not registered for the electronic system, the process for a death certificate will be handled via postal mail and can take up to 4-6 weeks. The next of kin will be sent paperwork at the time of death explaining how to order certified copies of the death certificate.

How is the body disposed of after studies are completed?

Following anatomical study, the body must be cremated. The ashes (cremains) can be interred at the University burial site OR ashes can be returned to the next-of-kin after death. The donor indicates their wishes for their ashes at the time of registration.

If our paperwork indicates to return the ashes to the next-of-kin, we will send a letter to the next-of-kin on file notifying that the ashes are ready for return. If the ashes are being shipped to the next-of-kin, we request a confirmation of the address where the ashes will be shipped.

If the next-of-kin is in the local area they may pick up the ashes at Kentucky Mortuary Services in Lexington. We will send a letter to the next-of-kin on file notifying that the ashes are ready for return. The next-of-kin listed on file will need to arrange a time with Kentucky Mortuary Services, (859) 278-8501, to pick up the cremains.

If we are unable to contact the next-of-kin, or we do not hear back from next-of-kin within 6 months, the ashes will be interred at the UK burial grounds as their final resting place.

If the ashes are to be interred at the UK burial site, there will be no contact with the next-of-kin when the ashes are ready. Ashes buried in our cemetery plot will not be exhumed under any circumstance or situation.

Will it be possible for my family to receive a report of medical findings or given details of the study the body was involved in?

Other than the Death Certificate provided after death, we do not provide any other reports concerning pathologic findings, cause of death or details of the specific studies that are conducted. We do not conduct autopsies or maintain reports.

I travel a great deal, what if I should die outside the immediate area?

We recommend that the body be offered to the nearest medical school. We do not accept donations outside of the state of Kentucky. We always recommend a secondary plan should the donor not be acceptable or no longer in Kentucky.

What can family members leave at the UK burial/memorial site?

Permanent markers (such as plaques or benches) are not permitted. Arrangements can be made in other locations of the Lexington Cemetery but not specifically on allocated burial sites for the program.