Anatomical Gift Program

Anatomical Gift Flower

The Need for Donations

The study of the human body is an indispensable component of medical education and research, enabling the advancement of medical science and therapy. Every year, Downstate’s College of Medicine needs anatomical donations for the education of our College of Medicine students, postgraduate physicians, and students of related disciplines. Private donation is the only source for the College of Medicine’s anatomical gifts at Downstate.

Who Can Donate?

Any person of sound mind who is over 18 years of age can register to donate his/her body for education, research, and the advancement of medical science or therapy (Section 4302 of the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, of the General Laws of New York). There is no age limit for those who wish to donate.  

FAQs about donating your body to medical science:

In accordance with the New York State Department of Health’s Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, an individual may arrange for the donation of his/her remains by executing the Body Donation Form. To be valid, the form must be signed by two witnesses. The original instrument should be sent to Downstate’s College of Medicine (COM), Department of Cell Biology, after which you will be registered in the program and will receive your letter of acknowledgement and donor card. You may withdraw your donation at any time by notifying our program in writing of your change of intention.

Prospective donors should include information about making an anatomical donation in their will. Further, because there is a limited window of time—48 hours—for accepting a body after death, donors should inform family members of their wishes.

New York Law prohibits payment for body donations— However, we do assume responsibility for the cost of transporting the body to a Downstate College of Medicine–designated funeral home if the death occurs within either the New York City limits or adjacent counties, cremating the body after study or research is completed, and returning the remains to next-of-kin for donors who live in New York City or surrounding counties.

At the time of the donor’s death, the person responsible for making final arrangements (the nearest next-of-kin) should call Downstate’s Anatomical Gift Program at 718-270-1419 as soon as possible to determine if Downstate’s College of Medicine can accept the donation. Downstate’s COM must receive donor remains within 24 hours after death unless specific exemption has been granted by the school. A body that has been autopsied or embalmed cannot be accepted for donation.

Once a gift is accepted, Downstate’s funeral director will correspond with the family and plan for the transfer to Downstate. If death occurs outside of the designated 70-mile radius from Downstate, the family will incur the cost of out-of-state/out of jurisdiction transportation from place of death to Downstate.

Within a period of up to approximately 24 months, when studies are complete, Downstate’s College of Medicine will carry out the disposition of the remains as elected on the Body Donation Form, to the extent consistent with the current policy of the College of Medicine. The options available at the present time are:

  • To reclaim the remains at the expense of the estate or family for private burial.
  • To request that the School arrange for cremation. Cremated remains can be returned to the donor’s designee, picked up by the donor’s designee at Downstate’s COM, scattered at sea, or buried at Downstate Cemetery, in a registered grave; these options are available at the expense of Downstate’s College of Medicine. A memorial service for donors buried at Downstate Cemetery takes place each year in the Spring.

Acceptance of an anatomical gift is contingent upon the decision of Downstate’s College of Medicine at the time of death of the donor. The College of Medicine reserves the right, at any time, to decline a particular anatomical gift for any reason.

The College has an ongoing need for donations and carefully reviews all possibilities for utilizing donations for purposes of education, research and the advancement of medical science or therapy. Although most anatomical donations are accepted at the time of death, a donor (or donor family) should plan alternative arrangements for private cremation and/or burial in the event a donation must be declined.

If you would like more information, please call the Anatomical Gift Program at 718-270-1419.