An anatomical gift is the donation of an individual's body after death. Future health professionals study donations under the watchful supervision of highly trained anatomists. They learn the fundamentals of human biology while developing an appreciation for the form, function and beauty of the human body. Medical science professionals deepen their skill and understanding by intense study of the parts of the body. This training and study take place in the controlled environment of academic laboratories under the watchful supervision of PhDs of anatomy, who observe clear and long-standing ethical and scientific conventions.
Eight medical schools within the State of Illinois make up the Anatomical Gift Association. Under their supervision, the AGA procures, prepares and preserves donations for medical and scientific study. The AGA also makes its facility available for health professionals as well as to students.
What does the AGA do?
Formerly known as the Demonstrator’s Society, the AGA was founded in 1918. It is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation that manages the willed body donor program for the medical research and educational institutions of Illinois. The AGA plays an essential role in the training of thousands of medical students and allied health professionals annually. It receives, prepares, preserves and distributes human remains for the purpose of medical, biological, and anatomical education and research at licensed and accredited institutions of higher learning throughout Illinois and beyond. The association also makes its resources and facility available for anatomical, medical and mortuary science training.
The association’s member institutions include most of the major academic medical schools in the state including: Loyola University of Chicago, Midwestern University, National University of Health Sciences, Northwestern University, Rush Medical College, Southern Illinois University, the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois. The AGA Board of Directors continuously assesses developments in national and world science and healthcare while monitoring the activities and practices of the organization. When necessary, the Board directs staff to adopt innovations to improve its scientific practices and other operating procedures.
The mission of the Anatomical Gift Association of Illinois is to provide ethically sourced, voluntarily donated human cadaveric material to advance anatomical understanding, expertise and training in medical, allied health, and educational professions, as well as in society at large.
● Help donors and their families make their donations with the confidence that the AGA will observe the highest standards of responsiveness, respect, privacy and security.
● Provide donor material to educational, training and research programs to facilitate instruction of health care professionals, improve public understanding of anatomical sciences, and advance scientific research.
● Provide direction on the appropriate use, handling and treatment of donor material, including by participating in legislative, administrative and professional forums.
● Provide clarity and transparency at all levels of the process, from donation through return of cremains (ashes).
● Educate the public in the importance, value and process of whole-body donation.
● Promote not-for-profit, whole-body donation in Illinois and beyond.
From the initial receipt of our donors to return of the cremains (ashes) to the family we expect our staff and all those who work with our donor material to adhere to our core values of respect, integrity and professionalism.
● Show respect for our donors by treating them with the utmost care, reverently performed.
● Display integrity by adhering to the highest legal and ethical standards.
● Adhere to professional codes of conduct governing health care, education, and research.
AGA supports the training of thousands of medical students and allied health professionals annually. With the materials supplied by the AGA medical students develop knowledge and understanding of human anatomy through dissection. This training represents a crucial phase of medical education, one that cannot be replaced by computer simulation or virtual reality.
In recent years, the AGA has participated in trauma and emergency response training for fire fighters and police officers, as well as members of the US military and the National Guard, many of whom come from outside of Illinois. These first responders have benefited from an enhanced understanding of anatomy as a result of training supported by the AGA.
The AGA also supports research programs in Alzheimer’s disease, neurology, orthopedics, cardiology and plastic surgery.
The association contributes to training initiatives in orthopedic surgery, plastic and reconstructive surgery, gynecology and gastroenterology, among others.