Human Gift Registry
Marshall University
Joan C. Edwards
School of Medicine



This booklet is dedicated to the previous donors at

Marshall University School of Medicine.

"for those who in death have helped the living."



Human Gift Registry

Department of Anatomy, Cell and Neurobiology

Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine

Marshall University

1542 Spring Valley Drive

Huntington, West Virginia   25704-9388


The Human Gift Registry Programs of Marshall University, West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, and West Virginia University are operated under the auspices of the West Virginia Anatomical Board which is statutorily authorized and created by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.


                To donate one's body to the health sciences is a noble, compassionate and humanitarian gesture.  The benefits to mankind are very real.  After death, the body can become a source of life to others.


            Formal medical training in human anatomy is the foundation for a doctor's skill and    knowledge.  Basic anatomical training comes early in the curriculum for all medical, dental, nursing, and physical therapy students.  These students also study the structure of the human body as it relates to surgery, cardiology, orthopedics, ophthalmology, neurology, dermatology and many other specialty fields.  The body is used not only to teach the necessary details of structure and function, but also to develop vital skills in clinical procedures and techniques.  Serious and dedicated study of the human body is absolutely essential in order to develop the professional competence health professionals must have to provide quality health care.


            In research, too, the body can be utilized to great advantage.  One frequently reads about new medical discoveries.  These discoveries result primarily from the intensive research activities carried out in our nation's medical centers.  Because of such research, the quality of life, and the average life expectancy in many countries, including the United States, has been lengthened significantly.


            West Virginia residents and citizens of all other states may respond to the urgent need for support of the health sciences.  Donation of one's body is authorized by the laws of West Virginia and all other states, and clear statutory provisions have been established for this priceless deed for humanity.  Some basic questions and answers on the following pages will provide information you will want to understand in order to make this important decision.


            Who may donate?  Any person 18 years of age or older may be a donor.  However, the Human Gift Registry is under no obligation to accept any gift and may, in its discretion, decline a donation at the time of death.  Conditions which may preclude acceptance of a donation include, but are not limited to:  autopsy, major trauma, amputations, sepsis, contagious diseases such as AIDS, hepatitis, herpes, etc., conditions treated with therapeutic radionuclides. 


            How do I go about donating my body to the health sciences?  The donation forms should be completed, witnessed by two people, and returned to a Human Gift Registry of the West Virginia Anatomical Board. West Virginia has three medical institutions authorized to accept donations:  Marshall University, Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, Human Gift Registry, 1542 Spring Valley Drive, Huntington, West Virginia 25704-9388; West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, Human Gift Registry, 400 N. Lee Street, Lewisburg, West Virginia 24901; and West Virginia University, Human Gift Registry, 4052 Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center North, Morgantown, West Virginia 26506-9131.   Retain the yellow copy of the donation form and this booklet for your records.  This simple procedure will fulfill your wishes and no other action is necessary.  Upon receipt of your completed registration form and general information form by the Human Gift Registry, you will be sent a wallet card identifying you as a donor of a Human Gift Registry.  This card should be carried with you at all times.

            Is it necessary for me to make a will or to contact an attorney in order to legally donate my body?  No.  However, you may wish to consult with an attorney.  All requirements for bequeathing your body can be fulfilled by simply completing a donation form.  Please inform your family of your wishes to donate your body.


            What will be done with the remains after my body is used for medical study?  The body will be cremated.  Ashes of bodies utilized by Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine are interred in a mausoleum in Spring Hill Cemetery in Huntington.  Ashes of bodies utilized at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine are interred in Rosewood Cemetery Mausoleum in Lewisburg.  Ashes of bodies utilized at West Virginia University are interred in a special memorial vault on the grounds of the Health Sciences Center.  If a donor prefers to have the ashes returned to the family or a designated recipient (i.e., a family member, funeral director, pastor, etc.), the Human Gift Registry must be advised in writing upon completing the Donor Registration Form.  However ashes may be returned upon request from the next-of-kin if the Human Gift Registry is notified in writing upon death of donor.  Returning ashes is not a legal obligation of the Human Gift Registry; however, reasonable efforts will be made to comply with requests within its guidelines.  There may be a charge to the next-of-kin for disinterment.  In accordance with state guidelines, the institution may retain and use anatomical specimens for educational program use.


             Memorial services, honoring all those persons whose bodies were received during the year, are held annually at West Virginia University's Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center.  Family members and friends are welcome to attend this memorial service.  Donor's names will be permanently inscribed, after death, in memorial volumes housed in the Health Sciences Center at West Virginia University, where family members may view them. 


            Will there be any charges or financial obligations to my survivors? No. The cost for reasonable transportation, embalming, cremation, and burial in the institution's memorial vault will be covered by the Human Gift Registry, within limits set by the State.  The Human Gift Registry will cover the cost of returning ashes (upon written request) to the appropriate recipient.  However, if the ashes are returned to the family, the Human Gift Registry will not pay for any expenses incurred after the release of the ashes.


            When will my body be utilized?  Utilization of one's body may occur at any time after receipt of the body, but it may be several years before utilization is completed. 


            Should I make anyone aware of my decision to donate my body to the health sciences?  Definitely!  You should discuss your wishes with members of your family.  They should be aware of your intent in order for your wishes to be carried out immediately after death.  Time is very important.  If your relatives are not informed in advance, the reading of a will or discovery of donation papers may come too late for your gift to be accepted. 


            Must I submit general information about my state of health and so forth?  No.  However, information about a donor's health is beneficial to the Human Gift Registry and the educational uses of the donation.  If you wish to assist in making your donation as beneficial as possible, please provide the Human Gift Registry with a statement granting your permission for your physician to release your medical history to us.  For your convenience, a medical release statement is included as part of booklet; please execute and return the medical release statement to the Human Gift Registry so that the medical history of the donation may be ascertained and used as part of the education experience made possible by the donation.


            Will the person studying a body be aware of its identity?  No!  Identity is strictly confidential.  The only information given to the students and health care providers is age at the time of death and the cause of death.


            Do most bodies utilized for the health sciences come from donations?  Yes. The growing cooperation and understanding of the general public, clergy, members of civic organizations and members of medical, dental, legal, and mortuary professions in West Virginia are deeply appreciated.


         Are there religious considerations?  The beliefs of most religious groups are entirely consistent with the donation and use of one's body     for the health sciences.  Donation of one's body is morally and legally justified.  This gift benefits the lives of other human beings and is an expression of the deepest principles of all religions.  If you have any questions, you should consult your religious leader or lodge official.


            In the event of a change of address, should I notify the Human Gift Registry?  Yes.  If you move outside of West Virginia or beyond the Tri-State Area, you should make arrangements for the donation of your body to the medical center nearest your new location.  Should a donor die while traveling in another part of the country or world, the family should contact the nearest medical school.  In such cases, the high cost of transportation and dangers of deterioration preclude delivery of the body to the medical school originally designated.


            Will I be able to have funeral services?  Donation precludes the possibility of having a funeral service with the body present.  Therefore, it is appropriate to have a memorial service without the body present.  Such arrangements and costs are the responsibility of the family.


            Are there ethical standards in the use of my body for health sciences?  Absolutely.  This basic professional and moral consideration is very important.  The highest professional standards are carefully followed, and the body is treated with dignity and respect.  Only authorized persons are involved, and all are thoroughly trained in fundamental requirements.


            May I sell my body to science?  No.  State law prohibits the selling of bodies and parts thereof.   We do not buy bodies!  Your donation should be made in the spirit or a truly priceless gift for mankind and the advancement of health sciences.


            Who should be notified at the time of my death?  One of the Human Gift Registries of the  West Virginia Anatomical Board should be notified.  The telephone numbers are:  Marshall University (304) 696-7382 or after hours (304) 412-1903 or (304) 412-0918 or (304) 453-1751; West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (304) 647-6208. West Virginia University is (304) 293-6322 and after hours your call will be processed by an answering service.


            May I donate organs and tissues for transplant?  The Human Gift Registries do not accept bodies from which organs have been removed.  Persons who wish to donate their organs for transplant purposes may call the West Virginia Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE) 1-800-366-6777 or the Kentucky Organ Procurement Agency at (800) 525-3456.  


            If I rescind my decision to donate, what steps must be followed?  The appropriate Human Gift Registry must be notified in writing of your decision.


            How does one's family obtain a death certificate:  One may obtain a certified copy of a death certificate by contacting the West Virginia State Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, 1800 Washington St., East, Charleston, WV  25305 or call (304) 304-558-2931. Also, certified copies of death certificates may be obtained from the county court house in the county in which the person died.


            May I or my family make memorial bequests or gifts to the advancement of research and education in medical science?  Yes. Those wishing to make bequests or gifts in memory of a donor should contact the Human Gift Registry at the medical school of their choice.




To a Medical Student



This is my body,

the shell of my being

which is given to you

in final offering to the world.

I share the elements of life

from these old bones,

these ligaments

my sinews and my nerves.

May that life force that ran in me

shine forth once more

and pass to you

the knowledge and the power

that help sustain

the miracle of life.


Anatomical gift donor