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Biomedical Sciences

Quillen College of Medicine



Answers to Your Questions About Donating Your Body
to Medical Education and Research:

Why are human bodies donated to the ETSU Quillen College of Medicine?

They are an indispensable aid in medical teaching.  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 would be no physicians, and no surgery.

How will my body be used?

Most bodies are used to teach medical and physical therapy students, and residents, and in the continuing education program for surgeons.  Some bodies are used for research, primarily by surgeons to study new operative techniques.

Are there any restrictions on the condition of bodies accepted?

Yes.  The remains may be refused in certain instances when tissues have been damaged (for example, a serious automobile accident), or when the body has been autopsied, or embalmed incorrectly.  Also, we will not accept the remains if organs have been donated, if the body weight is in excess of 230 pounds, or if the donor has or dies of a contagious disease (for example, AIDS, MRSA, VRE, staph, hepatitis).  The determination of the acceptability of the body or donation can only be made at the time of death, since the cause of death may render the donation unsuitable for study. Pre-arrangement does not mean acceptance.  To avoid undue grief and disappointment to members of your family, they should be made aware of these conditions and have an alternate plan.

Is this a normal and acceptable procedure?

Definitely, yes.  It is recommended by health care providers, civic leaders, etc.

Are there religious objections to donating one’s body to medical science?

The practice is approved and encouraged by religious leaders.  All remains that are donated to the Program are treated with dignity and respect and are always handled with the highest degree of professionalism.

Is there an urgent need for body donations?

The need is great and will be increased by the demand for more physicians, dentists, nurses, and other health service practitioners.

Is donating one’s body difficult or complicated?

No, it is a very simple and easy procedure.  One needs only to complete and return to us a donation form which requires a few items of information:  the donor’s social security number, the donor’s date of birth, and the signature of two (2) witnesses.

Can a donation take place against the wishes of the spouse or next-of-kin?

Under the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, your wishes take legal precedence over those of your next-of-kin.  However, the ETSU Quillen College of Medicine will not accept a body when 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 likely to be concerned of their intentions and of their plans to make a donation of their body.

What is the purpose of pre-arranged donation?

Your donation relieves the next-of-kin from making this decision under the handicap of grief. Your pre-arranged donation protects both the ETSU Quillen College of Medicine and your survivors, and simplifies the procedure at the time of death.  No donor’s remains will be accepted without prior arrangements.

Must a person be of legal age to sign a donation form?


May I alter, cancel, or revoke my donation if I change my mind?

Yes, at any time by writing to the Anatomical Gift Program.

Will I or my family be paid for my body?

No.  Medical schools are not permitted by law to purchase any person’s body.

Are bodies acceptable if the EYES have been donated to the Eye Bank?

Usually not. The time required to successfully obtain corneal tissues makes it unlikely that we could obtain the remains within the required period of time.

How long is required for the scientific study?

In most instances there is time lapse of from 1 to 3 years between the arrival of the body at ETSU College of Medicine and completion of the study.

Must I be a resident of Tennessee to donate my body?

No.  Persons residing outside the state, but not over 30 miles from Johnson City may make this request.  Individuals in neighboring states outside of our 30-mile radius are encouraged to contact medical schools within their respective state concerning donation.

What if my death occurs away from home?

An identification card and necklace with instructions are provided by the Anatomical Gift Program.  This card and/or necklace should be in your possession at all times.  However, the Anatomical Gift Program can only be responsible for transportation charges within 30 miles of the University.  Should a donor die while traveling in another part of the state or country, the family should contact the nearest medical school.  In such cases, the high cost of transportation and time limitation preclude delivery of the body to the medical school originally designated in a timely manner.

What if I should move to another state?

If the distance from Johnson City interferes with our ability to receive the remains within a timely manner, a substitute arrangement made with a medical school nearest your home may be required.  Please call our office to discuss this situation, if necessary.

I live alone, who is to notify you when I pass away?

For those persons who live alone, it is recommended that they have a family member, friend, or neighbor check on them several times a day, or at least once daily.  Because we do have time constraints on when the remains are to be received, if we cannot determine time of death, the remains may not be accepted.

In the event of a change of address, should I notify the Anatomical Gift Program?

Yes.  Occasionally we will mail out updated information about our donor program, etc.  Notifying us of your new address will make sure that you are kept informed of any new information concerning the Program.  As indicated above, if you move outside of the immediate area or state, you should make arrangements for the donation of your body to the medical school nearest your new location.  You should also let us know so that we can remove your name from our donor list.

May a customary or traditional funeral service be held prior to the transfer of the body to the ETSU Quillen College of Medicine?

No.  Conducting a traditional funeral service with the remains of the donor present would cause a delay in our receiving the body, making embalming impossible.  A memorial service without the remains present is recommended.

May a local funeral home which I select pickup and embalm my remains?

No.  The ETSU Quillen College of Medicine has a state contract with a funeral home that does transportation for us and uses the embalming procedures that we require.  These are different from normal embalming requirements.  If a donor’s family utilizes the services of a funeral home other than the contracted agent, the family will be responsible for paying any charges incurred and the remains will not be accepted.

How will the death certificate be handled?

Certified copies of the death certificate may be obtained from the Health Department in the county where the death occurred.  This could take from 7-10 days.  Our contracted funeral home will provide an application to the next-of-kin for this purpose.

What happens when the scientific study is concluded?

The remains will be cremated.  Each donor is cremated individually.  The Anatomical Gift Program will incur the expense for cremation.  The expense for the burial of the ashes will be at the expense of the surviving relatives/executor.  If no such request is made, the ashes will be interred in a cemetery plot owned by the ETSU Quillen College of Medicine at no cost to the family.

Will my family receive a report of the results of your studies?

No.  Our studies do not include any pathological investigation that could result in any detailed report.


                                                  If you have additional questions,
                                                             Call TOLL FREE:

                                               1-866-968-3668 (1-866-YOU DON8)

                                                                     or write:

                                                East Tennessee State University
                                                   Quillen College of Medicine
                                                      Anatomical Gift Program
                                                                Box 70582
                                                   Johnson City, TN  37614-1708


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