Understanding Whole Body Donation
Body Donation FAQs

Body Donation FAQs

Research For Life connects whole body donors to the educators and researchers who use human tissue to advance medicine. We have worked with thousands of families through the Research For Life Donor Program. This program provides a no-cost alternative to traditional funeral arrangements that includes transportation, cremation, and options for the final disposition of the cremains.

Pre-registration is not required to be accepted as a donor. However, it is important to know that registered donors do enjoy the peace of mind knowing they not only have a plan, they are also donating hope to future generations.

About Whole Body Donation

While donating your whole body can benefit so many, it is a decision only you can make. Such an important choice requires serious thought and consideration. One consideration is eligibility. Almost everyone is eligible for whole body donation. However, there are some factors that could prevent being accepted into our program:

Certain Illnesses or Diseases

Researchers and educators can often utilize tissue from even seriously ill donors—even those with cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. There are only a few diseases that prevent donation — blood related diseases such as AIDS or HIV, Hepatitis B and C, certain bacterial infections, plus other specific, though very rare, illnesses. Even if you are ill, contact us if you are interested and we can discuss the possibilities.


While there is no maximum age limit to be an anatomical donor, (the average age range is in the 80′s) Research For Life does not accept any donors under the age of 18.


In most cases, researchers and educators cannot utilize tissue from donors who are severely malnourished or morbidly obese, but there is some demand for tissue from all body types, so please contact us, whatever your weight.


If you have questions regarding how your religion views body donation, speak with a member of your faith’s clergy for counsel.

Any time you feel at ease making it. The final decision to donate can be granted by either the donor before death through pre-registration or the legal next of kin can grant consent if the donor had not elected to pre-register.

While there are no requirements for pre-registration, Research For Life wants to answer all your question and honor your requests, and sometimes, that can take a while. Therefore, we encourage you and your close family members to contact us as soon as possible.

You or your legal next of kin may consent to anatomical donation with two witnesses, in accordance with your state’s Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, and any applicable state and federal laws regarding cremation authorizations. The law also provides that a third party may make the decision for you if you have designated and authorized that person in advance through the appointment of a Health Care Power of Attorney.

Each state’s Uniform Anatomical Gift Act defines the Consenting Class Hierarchy (next of kin) for the donation process. The legal next of kin can range form the donor’s closest relatives (as defined by state law) to a designated Health Care Power of Attorney. Most states recognize the Health Care Power of Attorney as the highest order of next of kin.

No. There are no costs directly involved with whole body donation to Research For Life. However, there are expenses associated with obtaining certified copies of the death certificate and, in some cases, Medical Examiner fees are incurred. The costs for death certificates vary from county to county but usually range from $20.00 to $30.00 per certified copy.

Yes. Research For Life returns the cremated remains to the designated next of kin when the return option is chosen. Remember that the only cremated remains returned are those that are not retained for medical education or medical research. Those tissues retained by Research For Life will never be returned to the next of kin under any circumstance.

Research For Life gives you several options for the disposition of the cremated remains; all of which are provided at no cost to you or your next of kin. You can select to have your ashes returned to your designated next of kin, spreading your ashes at sea, or a no return option.

Research For Life will submit the information for the death certificate into the county vital records system. We then provide you with the forms you need (with instructions) to obtain death certificates from the county. The costs for death certificates vary from county to county but usually range from $20.00 to $30.00 per certified copy.

With whole body donation, open casket viewing is not possible. However, it is very common for families to hold a memorial service with or without the cremated remains. Research For Life also holds an Annual Memorial service in Arizona and California during National Donor Month in April.

The growing popularity of this option has had a dramatic effect on how funeral service providers view Whole Body Donation.  Most funeral homes and morticians understand that it is the donors and their families who make the decision regarding the disposition of their body following death.  The scientific and medical benefits to humankind cannot be ignored and most funeral homes will support this decision.

Yes, many families choose to have a memorial service in honor of the donor, with or without cremated remains present. Burials, scatterings, and other ceremonies are also often performed by the donor’s loved ones once they are in possession of the cremated remains.

Research For Life also holds an Annual Memorial Celebration in Arizona and Southern California. This gives donor families another opportunity to honor their loved ones.

Transplant Donation is tissue intended to save or enhance someone’s life by being transplanted into a living person. Whole Body Donation differs because it is tissue intended for medical research, education, and advancing medicine.

Both are important and both save lives. Research For Life is committed to putting Transplant Donation first due to its life-saving nature.   Research For Life will work and coordinate with the transplant organization to honor your wishes.

You should also know that it is possible to be both a transplant donor as well as a whole body donor.

Once a whole body is donated, we assess and place the tissue specimens with the particular studies that would best benefit from the donation. The nature of the death and a host of other variables are considered during the process of determining if a tissue specimen will be accepted into a study.

If there is a particular study that a donor wishes to contribute to, it is important to let us know so that we can do our best to match the donation with the study. It may be determined that the donor tissue would better benefit other areas of medical research or education. Also, there is no guarantee that the donor tissue will be accepted into any study.

Research For Life reserves the right to determine the best possible placement for the donated tissue and cannot guarantee contribution acceptance.

All the organs and tissue donated to Research For Life are used solely to advance medical research and education. We have very specific policies, procedures and agreements that strictly control all aspects of tissue donation and use. These controls are in place to ensure that all researchers and educators are approved before any tissue requests are considered and filled. The organizations using donated tissue often include medical schools, medical institutions, surgical learning facilities and disease research associations.

About Research For Life

You can register to be a donor with Research For Life at any time. Potential donors must reside within our approved service area and not be under the age of 18. Our approved service area currently covers the state of Arizona (AZ) and Southern California (CA).

Click here to download our Donor Registration Forms.

All forms are in PDF format and may be completed online or printed and completed by hand. Send your completed Donor Registration Packet to us by:






POSTAL MAIL:Research For Life
2230 East Magnolia Street
Phoenix, AZ 85034
Research For Life
41743 Enterprise Circle North, Suite 104
Temecula, CA 92590

If you would like to speak with someone from Family Services first, please contact us at 800.229.3244. Our phones are staffed 24 hours a day/7 days a week/365 days a year by trained professionals who are ready to take your call. If you have specific donor registry questions, please call during our normal business hours –  8:30AM – 4:30PM PST, Monday through Friday – so that we can connect you with a Family Services expert.

Once your registration has been accepted, Research For Life will mail an acceptance letter with registration number, a donor ID card for your wallet, and a copy of the registration packet for you records in approximately 2 weeks. We ask that you share this information with your family or parties responsible for your arrangements so that your wish to donate is honored when the need arises.

All organizations that are provided with donated human tissue must sign a Tissue Transfer Agreement and, in so doing, agrees to treat the tissue specimens in a dignified manner. Any organization who violates the Agreement, particularly the Dignity & Respect clause, will be denied the ability to secure tissue from Research For Life.

Yes. You have the legal right to pre-register with the organization of your choice at any time.

Yes. You or your family member may revoke your decision to donate by asking to be removed as a donor either in writing or by phone.

Research For Life conforms to the highest level of professionalism regarding donor information and shall only identify the donor when required by law or as necessary to aid in the placement of human tissue. We respect your privacy and will do everything reasonably possible to ensure that confidentiality is adhered to.

Absolutely. We welcome visitors daily because we are very proud of our offices and laboratory facilities. You may call 800.229.3244 to arrange a private tour or click here to RSVP for one of our public tours. The public tours are held 4 times a year at our Arizona facility. The tour begins in a classroom setting where visitors attend a presentation on whole body donation followed by a Q&A session and then a tour of the entire facility. We believe maintaining public trust includes complete transparency and open access.

We provide the following services for donors:

  • no cost cremation
  • no cost for body transportation
  • no cost filing of death certificate into county vital records system
  • forms needed to obtain death certificates from the county (with instructions)
  • no cost return of cremated remains if return chosen
  • Return of cremated remains
  • Annual Memorial Celebration

Research For Life is a premier provider of anatomical material for medical education and research. We have brought the whole body donation experience to a new and unprecedented level of compassionate care and professionalism. We are dedicated to making the donation experience as meaningful and dignified as possible for the donors and their families while providing quality contributions of valuable human tissue to medical educators and researchers.

What you can expect from Research For Life:

  • A professional, experienced and compassionate staff.
  • A trained staff member will answer your calls personally, 24/7/365.
  • All arrangements may be made in our office, at your home, or in your hospital room or hospice care facility.
  • Research For Life files all necessary paperwork with the County. The next of kin is then able to obtain Certified Death Certificates from the County’s Records Department, the costs vary between counties.
  • No cost for cremation.
  • No cost for body transportation.
  • No cost for providing the cremated remains to our donor’s family.
  • No cost for a dignified “spreading at sea.”

Patients referred to Research For Life, and who are accepted into our Donor Program, are accepted at the time of death even if health conditions change later. Please note the limitations, there are factors that can void the acceptance of a donor.

We established this program to show that our commitment is about respecting the gift that has been offered. We do this to honor the relationship between the referring hospice or caregiver and the donor/donor family. Giving the donor and their loved ones this peace of mind during the difficult times they are facing together is the right thing to do.

Research For Life is a for profit organization compensated for the recovery of all human tissue specimens by medical educators, researchers and others deemed appropriate to receive donated human tissue.