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UMDNJ-RWJMS Anatomical Association

Frequently Asked Questions


1. What is the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act?
Passage of the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act in 1968 established guidelines for the bequest of the human body. It reads in part: Any individual of sound mind and 18 years of age or more may give all or any part of his body for any purposes specified, the gift to take effect upon death . . . Any accredited medical or dental school, college, or university [may become a donee of gifts of bodies] for education, research, advancement of medical or dental science or therapy."

2. Who may donate? How is this bequest made?

Two methods are available:

Pre-Registration: Any New Jersey resident over 18 may be a donor; there is no maximum age. Pre-registration is preferred. To receive information and an application form, call the Anatomical Association office at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School workdays at 1-800-GIFT-211. To apply, follow the instructions attached to the application form. Upon acceptance, you will receive a wallet card which identifies you as a donor. It is helpful to discuss your intentions with your next of kin, and familiarize them with the information in this brochure.

Bequeathal-After-Death: This form of donation occurs when the family of a deceased but unregistered individual wishes to donate the body to science.

3. Can a bequest be rescinded if a registered donor has a change of mind? And, what happens when donors relocate outside of New Jersey?
The bequest is an arrangement, not a binding legal contract. The arrangement is easily canceled upon written request.

When registered donors move from New Jersey, they should notify our office and we will assist them in finding a Program with a medical school in the new location.

4. When a bequest is made to RWJMSAA, and the donor dies outside of New Jersey, what is the procedure?
It is recommended that the possibility of donating the body to the nearest medical school be explored.

5. What costs are involved in my donation to RWJMSAA and how are they assessed?
Like many whole body programs, our donor families/estates pay the expense of donor transport.  Donors will be transported to the Anatomical Association by the contracted , licensed funeral director who provides quality service to University donor families at reasonable rates.  Donor families will be invoiced by the funeral director.  When requested, our funeral director will apply for Medicaid-eligible benefits which would cover his charges.  The Anatomical Association continues to assume the costs for cremation and burial.

6. Will my body automatically be accepted into the program once I sign and return the donor form?

Acceptance of a bequeathal is not automatic. The decision to accept or reject the donation is always made at the time of death. The person you authorize (chosen earlier by the donor and listed on the bequeathal form) should be aware of your wishes should a rejection occur. Note the criteria in Item 7, below.

7. Why might a gift be declined?
Reasons for rejection may include: Autopsy, presence or suspected presence of Jakob-Creutzfeldt Disease, AIDS, “C”-Diff, MRSA, TB, extremes of obesity or emaciation, beginning stages of decomposition, unhealed surgery, or previous embalming.

The Anatomical Association also reserves the right to decline a donation in the unlikely event that it has exceeded its capacity. When the Anatomical Association must refuse a donation, they notify the donor's authorized person who then handles disposition of of the remains.

8. When I register to donate my body, should I also make alternate arrangements?
Although unlikely, it is possible that your body would be unacceptable for donation (see previous question), thus you and your authorized person should be aware of possible alternatives. Persons desiring simplicity and economy in funeral arrangements commonly join a memorial society, several of which are in NJ. More information can be obtained from Funeral Consumers Alliance at (800) 765-0107 or (802) 482-3437.

9. What is the procedure to follow at the time of death?

If death occurs at home and the donor is under hospice care, once hospice has pronounced the deceased, the family should immediately notify the Anatomical Association at (1-800-GIFT-211) - DO NOT call a local funeral home.

If death occurs at home and this is not a hospice case, call your local police who will assist you in arranging the pronouncement and then notify the Anatomical Association at 1-800-GIFT-211. If death occurs in a hospital or nursing home, personnel should immediately notify the Anatomical Association and families should verify that the call was made. Once notified, Anatomical Association will arrange transportation.

10. Will my donation remain exclusively at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School facility?
Our primary responsibility is to meet the educational and research needs of Rutgers University. Occasionally the Anatomical Association receives requests for bodies for medical education and/or research taking place at other facilities, and may fill those needs according to rigid criteria. Therefore, at its discretion, the Anatomical Association may temporarily transfer a body to an approved teaching institution or research facility within New Jersey or the surrounding area.

11. Will a funeral be permitted before donation?
No. Conveyance of the body must occur immediately. At their convenience, families may wish to plan a memorial service, or other appropriate remembrance as a means to closure.

12. How does my family obtain a death certificate?
The donor's physician must sign the death certificate, then the Anatomical Association will file the death certificate. The day a certificate is filed, ONE CERTIFIED COPY will be mailed to the authorized person (chosen earlier by the donor and listed on the bequeathal forms).

13. Are memorial donations appropriate?
Family and friends often make memorial contributions to their favorite charities to show sympathy at the time of death. Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Anatomical Association will gratefully acknowledge memorial gifts, which are tax-deductible.

14. What is the final disposition of the body following study? Is it possible to return the ashes to my family?
The Anatomical Association will cremate the remains upon completion of all studies. As the work nears completion, the authorized person (chosen earlier by the donor and listed on the bequeathal forms) will be notified by mail and asked for his/her choice regarding disposition of the Anatomical Association, or the cremated remains. They may also leave disposition to the Anatomical Association, or the family may request the cremated remains be returned (see Item 5). When directions for return are received, the Anatomical Association arranges the return of the cremains at no cost to the family.