Donation process

How does an individual or a family make a whole body gift?

Documentation before or at the Time of Death

Before the time of death, the future donor may express an intent to make a whole body contribution to science. To do so, the two forms that have links below are completed and sent to the AGA. Staff will review the forms and confirm that the documents are in order. These documents, and the bequest of the use of remains to the AGA, may be cancelled at any time up to the time of death. Sometimes donors or their families request that their remains be studied at a specific institution. The donor, family, or representative may request that the remains be studied at a specific institution by so indicating the request on the space provided on the donor form or by including a letter with your donor form. The AGA will attempt to honor such a request. However, where remains are studied depends upon the needs of all the AGA’s participating institutions at any given time and the AGA cannot guarantee when and where the remains will ultimately be used.

After the death, a family member or agent in fact under a power of attorney can also sign the documents for the donor.


At the Time of Death

At the time of death, the next of kin or power of attorney contacts a licensed funeral director to transport the remains to the AGA’s facility. If the paperwork has not been previously supplied to the AGA, it is delivered at the time of transport to the AGA. Funeral directors may deliver to the AGA seven days a week, 365 days a year.

After the remains arrive at the AGA, one of its licensed funeral directors does the following:

  • reviews the condition of the remains (Qualifications of Acceptance)
  • attaches written and digital identifiers to the remains;
  • enters all information regarding the remains into a digital database, which is backed up offsite;
  • enters the same information in written files;
  • places the remains in the AGA laboratory for preparation for study.

Delivery to and Retrieval from an Institution for Study

The AGA delivers the remains to academic and research institutions as they are requested. When the body arrives at the institution, its digital identifiers are scanned by both the AGA and the institution. In most cases, the only information regarding the body shared with the institution is the name, age and cause of death. The institution may study the body for two years or longer.


Cremation and Return of Ashes

When the institution has finished its study, the AGA retrieves the remains and its information is scanned once again to indicate that the institution has surrendered, and that the AGA has taken possession.

The AGA then delivers the remains to the crematory for cremation. The crematory scans the remains to show the crematory has acquired them. After the cremation, the cremains are delivered to the AGA where their digital identifier is scanned, and their status is recorded in the AGA’s files.

The AGA sends the cremains by U.S Postal Service to the family or wherever the donor or the family has designated that the cremains be sent within the United States. If return of the cremains is not desired, the AGA will inter them in accordance with the laws of the State of Illinois.

Because a body may remain at the AGA for a period of time before being sent for study, completion of the entire process can be as long as three years. 

Donation Safeguards

The AGA uses a state of the art QR tracking system to keep a record during the duration of the donation.

Information regarding the donor is kept and maintained in three locations: in the AGA’s digital records on site; its digital records off site; and its written records.

The AGA protects the anonymity of the donor and the donor’s family at all times.

All institutions receiving remains from the AGA are aware of its privacy and security practices and agree to abide by them as a condition of the study and use of the materials.


Download Forms

Below are the two forms needed to complete your donation.

Please return these two forms to the AGA and keep a copy for your records. The AGA also recommends giving a copy to the person responsible for your final arrangements. Download the Qualifications for Acceptance document.


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1540 S. Ashland Ave., Suite 104 
Chicago, IL 60608
Office: (312) 733-5283
Fax:     (312) 733-5079

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