Frequently Asked Questions

The Virginia State Anatomical Program (VSAP) is attentive to the needs of the donors and their families and is committed to providing the respect they deserve.  We understand that you may have many reservations, questions and concerns about donation. The answers to many of these issues can be found below.  If you have other questions, please feel free to contact the VSAP directly at (804) 786-2479.

  1. Is there an age limit?
    • The State Anatomical Gift Act, §32.1, Chapter 8, Article 2 of the Code of Virginia allows anyone 18 years of age or older to donate his or her body to the program.
  2. Is my family able to receive my cremated remains back once the study is complete?
    • Yes, the next of kin or responsible party will be mailed a “Request Form for the Return of Cremated Remains” after acceptance and authorization. The form must be returned to VSAP offices within 10 days.  It is recommended that in addition to listing the next of kin or responsible party that an additional contact be placed on the form.  Once the study is complete the user program will arrange for cremation and then have the cremated remains returned to VSAP.  The time frame for this can be from a few months up to five years, depending upon which program the donor was placed.
    • Once the cremated remains are received by VSAP, the next of kin or responsible party listed on the “Request Form for the Return of Cremated Remains” will be contacted to make arrangements to return the cremated remains by mail.
  3. May I donate organs or tissues and still donate my body to the State Anatomical Program?
    • Only a body that is intact is suitable for scientific research under the State Anatomical Program. Therefore, a body from which individual organs or tissues have been removed after death for transplant, except the corneas or eyes, cannot be used.
  4. May my body be donated at death if prior donation has not been authorized?
    • Donation may be made after death by having the person who is responsible for the disposition of the body complete an after-death donor form. In the absence of any indication to the contrary, donation at death may be made by the following people in priority relationship:
      1. designee
      2. an adult appointed by a person to make arrangements for disposition of the person’s remains, and Executor of Estate;
      3. spouse;
      4. adult son or daughter;
      5. either parent;
      6. adult brother or sister; or
      7. legal guardian of the decedent at the time of death .
      8. A body may be donated at death only if the State Anatomical Program determines it is suitable for use.
  5. Can I still donate to VSAP if I die outside of Virginia?
    • If you die outside of Virginia, there are three options:
      1. The body may be offered to the anatomical program at a nearby medical school that needs bodies, or
      2. The family may assume the expense of returning the unembalmed body to Virginia, at which time the State Anatomical Program will take possession of the remains, or
      3. The family may revoke donation by notifying the State Anatomical Program, and contact a funeral home of their choice and arrange for burial.
  6. Will my family have to pay for transportation of the body?
    • VSAP will pay a funeral home a designated fee for transporting the body of a pre-registered donor in Virginia to a state facility for collection. Any additional fees charged by funeral homes or transport services for this service may be assessed to the family.
  7. Will I be paid for donating my body to science?
    • No. VSAP does not buy bodies, nor do other states or medical schools in the United States. However, donation may relieve the family of some burial and associated expenses.
  8. How would my family obtain a death certificate?
    • After the attending physician signs the death certificate, VSAP will file the certificate with the local health department serving the jurisdiction where the death occurred. Certified copies of the death certificate can be requested from the local health department or from the Virginia Department of Health, Division of Vital Records, Richmond, Va., (804) 225-5000.
  9. May my family have a funeral for me?
    • VSAP encourages the family of the donors to have some type of memorialization for the donor. The family should contact a funeral home to assist them with this.  VSAP assumes custody of the body, so a funeral service with the body present is not possible unless prior arrangements have been made with VSAP staff.  The cremated remains of their loved one will be returned to them for a memorial service after medical study.  A “Request Form for the Return of Cremated Remains” must be filled out and submitted to VSAP at the time of the donor’s death.
  10. What about a death notice in the newspaper?
    • The family is responsible for the placement and cost of an obituary notice. The newspaper will confirm the death with VSAP prior to publication.
  11. Can my family request which medical program or study receives my donation?
    • A family may request that the donor be placed with a specific program and VSAP will try to honor that request; however, the request is not guaranteed due to the timing of the donor’s death and the needs of that specific program.
  12. What happens after the body is no longer needed in a medical program?
    • The disposition of the body by cremation is arranged by the school and the cremated remains are returned to VSAP. If the donor’s next of kin or responsible party completed and returned the “Request Form for the Return of Cremated Remains” to VSAP, they will be contacted and arrangements will be made to return the cremated remains to the next of kin or responsible party. The cremated remains may be picked up at VSAP facility in Richmond or VSAP will return them via Certified Mail (requires signature).  At times, an organ or part from a body may be useful for teaching purposes, and it is desirable to preserve it so that it may be used over and over without deterioration and more than one group of students will be able to study it. Such an organ may be preserved long-term at the medical school.
  13. Will it be possible for my family to receive a report of medical findings?
    • The bodies received are used strictly for the purpose of medical education in the instruction of anatomy and science. There are no autopsies performed and no pathological reports prepared.
  14. If I change my mind can I cancel my donation?
    • Your donation may be canceled at any time, in writing, to the Virginia State Anatomical Program. Make sure to notify your relatives that you have canceled your donation.