Frequently Asked Questions | Body Donation Program | UC Davis Health

Frequently asked questions

The program was founded with the purpose of supplying human remains for educational and research purposes. The act of donating one's body is regarded as a highly valued and appreciated contribution, utilized to educate and train both students and professionals. Through the generosity of our donors, we acquire valuable resources for research and education, ultimately contributing to advancements in health and the quality of life for future generations.

Our program is entirely free. Upon acceptance, we arrange for the transportation of the donor into our care, which also includes cremation or disposition arrangements. Please note that due to the nature of the program, cremated remains are not returned. 

A message to our donors and their families from our medical students at UC Davis.

Upon receiving your submitted application, the Body Donation Program will send you a confirmation letter acknowledging your registration, along with a donor wallet card. This card will display your unique donor number and a dedicated phone number to be contacted in the event of a death. It is essential to communicate your wishes and the outlined contact procedure to your family, designated responsible party, physician, and/or care facility. Registration typically requires 2-3 weeks for processing. If there's an urgent need to expedite an application, please reach out to the office and speak with one of our staff members at 916-734-9560.

Applications can be mailed, faxed, or emailed to our program

Address: UC Davis Body Donation Program: 4800 Broadway, Sacramento, CA 95820

Fax: 916-734-9563


Individuals aged 18 and above can enroll in our program prior to death. We have donors well into their 100s registering for our program, and advanced age is not a concern nor a reason for us to decline. In the event that a donor passes away without prior registration, the appointed power of attorney for healthcare or the surviving spouse/registered domestic partner of the deceased can complete the required forms on their behalf.

The University of California reserves the right to refuse a donation based on medical or pathological reasons or in the rare event that anatomical and research needs have been met. While this is an uncommon occurrence, it is important that the donor be aware of this possibility and have alternate arrangements in mind. Any condition that extensively destroys or distorts the normal anatomy of the body can make it difficult to conduct meaningful study. If any of the following situations, conditions or diseases are encountered please call the Body Donation Program for clarification.

These, if known, will result in a refusal:

  • Hepatitis B or C (even after completing treatment)
  • Tuberculosis
  • Kuru
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

The following reasons may result in refusal to accept. A decision can only be made at the time of death:

  • Autopsy
  • Immobility or physical impairments
  • Trauma
  • Mortuary preparations
  • Organ donation 
  • Recent extensive surgery
  • Obesity
  • Suicide or other suspicious deaths
  • Deaths reported after 48 hours
  • Significant decomposition

Documented death with dignity or physician assisted suicide will not result in refusal at the time of death.

If our program is unable to accept for almost any non-medically related reason, we will make every attempt to transfer the donation to another donor program within the University of California system.

These reasons may include paperwork not being sufficient for our program; the program is at capacity, etc. If a donation is rejected for a particular disease (for example Hepatitis B) we would not be able to refer the donation elsewhere.

In such cases, the family or responsible party must make alternative arrangements, either by collaborating with another body donation program or by contacting a local mortuary. The UC Davis Body Donation Program does not facilitate the disposition of declined donors.

You can revoke your donation from the program at any time prior to death. Simply send a letter expressing your desire to be removed from the registry, including your signature and date.

Mail to:

UC Davis Body Donation Program
4800 Broadway, Suite 100
Sacramento, CA 95820

Upon receiving your request, we will send a withdrawal confirmation letter by mail, acknowledging your decision.

Withdraw/Revoke Letter

At the time of death, please call the 24 hour death notification phone number located on the donor card: 530-752-2100. Our answering service is accessible 24/7, including holidays and weekends. The service will ask a few questions for verification purposes and to determine if the body is acceptable for donation at the time of death. If the family is ready, we will dispatch our transport service to take the donor into our care.

Who Do I Call? (Chart)

No, due to the undetermined length of time and how the body may be used for study, remains cannot be returned to the donor’s family. No exceptions can be made to this policy. 

We currently cremate and scatter our donors at sea once the study has been completed. Please be aware we do not notify family when this takes place. 

No, the family or responsible party is not informed about the specific type of study the donor will participate in. However, the program considers the donor's medical history and cause of death to determine the most suitable study at the time.

After studies are completed, the remains are cremated and scattered or interred in a manner consistent with state law. The Body Donation Program incurs all preparation, cremation and disposition expenses. The family or responsible party is not notified when studies conclude, nor when the disposition takes place. No exceptions can be made to this policy. 

The Body Donation Program will file the death certificate electronically with the county where the death occurred. Processing the death certificate may take 2-3 weeks, and the cost of certified copies may vary by county. It's important to note that the Body Donation Program does not provide copies of the death certificate. The family or responsible party will need to place an order with the county once the death certificate becomes available. It is important to note that the county will not have record of the death until the death certificate is registered. For a comprehensive list of counties, please visit: County Registrars and Recorders Offices

You don't need to reach out to Social Security to report the death, as the Body Donation Program will handle this task. If you believe you might qualify for survivor benefits, it's advisable to directly contact Social Security to initiate the application process.

Feel free to contact the donor program via phone or email to request changes to your donor file or to obtain a new donor wallet card. This information is crucial for filing the death certificate, emphasizing the importance of having the most current and accurate details.

Phone: 916-734-9560


The Body Donation Program accepts donors whose death occurred in California and does not currently accept donors from out of state. The program will decline donors whose death occurred outside of California. In such cases, the family or responsible party must make alternative arrangements, either by collaborating with another body donation program in the respective state or by contacting a local mortuary.

If a donor relocates out of state before death, the program can provide information on other available programs in that state for the individual to register with.

Directory of University-Based Programs

Our program does not perform autopsies. If a family wishes to request one, they can contact a private entity or the county coroner where the death occurred to express their concerns and explore the possibility of arranging an autopsy. Please be aware that if an autopsy is conducted, we will be unable to accept the donor into our program.

Our program does not furnish a report concerning any medical findings related to the donor.

Organ donation is intended to provide organs for living recipients, while body donation serves the purpose of education and research.

Are you a registered organ donor?  

You can still maintain your status as an organ donor. For those already registered as organ donors, the organ donation procedures are completed prior to the donor's arrival in our care. We strive to coordinate with organ donation organizations to facilitate participation in both programs. However, we kindly ask donors to abstain from donating skin or bones, as these contributions may alter the anatomical integrity essential for our specific educational and research purposes. This could potentially result in our program declining the donation. Should you have any specific inquiries, please feel free to contact our office for further clarification. 916-734-9560

For more information on organ donation, please visit: Donate Life California

No payment may be made in connection with a body donation. This policy is in accordance with State laws, and all institutions accepting human remains must comply with it. However, by donating your body, you can avoid all funeral or burial expenses.

Additional Questions regarding the suitability of a donation for study can be clarified by calling 916-734-9560 or by emailing the Body Donation Program at

Download a copy of our FAQ (PDF)

Become a registered donor

Complete the donor application document and return it to the Body Donation Program. You will be notified if you've been accepted as a registered donor and an identification card will be issued. This card will have your donor number along with a phone number to call at the time of death. Your physician and/or care facility should be notified of your wishes and informed of the contact procedure.