Whole Body Donation FAQs | PCOM | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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Frequently Asked Questions 
Whole Body Donation

Thank you for considering donation to the Humanity Gifts Registry of Pennsylvania. Please see the following frequently asked questions for details about the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine Human Anatomy program:

What is the Humanity Gifts Registry of Pennsylvania?

Founded in 1883, the Humanity Gifts Registry (HGR) of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is the only nonprofit agency in the state with legislative authority to receive donated bodies for education and research. The HGR then coordinates the distribution of donated bodies to medical and dental schools throughout Pennsylvania.

I want to donate my body; how do I get started?

The first step is to complete the HGR donor form following the online instructions. Once completed, mail one copy of the form to:

P.O. Box 835
Philadelphia, PA 19105-0835

Or fax a copy to 215-922-4896.

Share your decision with those close to you and keep a copy for your records with important health and legal documents.

Donating the body of a loved one requires the completion of the HGR Consent Form. Once completed, mail one copy of the form to:

P.O. Box 835, Philadelphia, PA 19105-0835, or fax a copy to HGR at 215-922-4896.

How do I alert my family, friends, and physicians of my wishes?

Please discuss your decision with those close to you. You should place a copy of your donor form with important health and legal documents. This will ensure that your wishes will be carried out. 

How do I donate my body directly to PCOM?

In Pennsylvania all donations must be made to the Humanity Gift Registry of Pennsylvania. We cannot accept donations directly to PCOM.

If you wish to have your body benefit the human anatomy program at PCOM, you must make your request with the Humanity Gift Registry. When completing the donor registration form, please write in: “I would like to designate Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine for this donation.” Donations can stay in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Is there a need for body donations?

Yes. The need for whole body donations is great and will be further increased by the demand for more doctors, dentists, nurses and other healthcare practitioners.

I live in the Philadelphia area. Will students at PCOM know my identity?

The HGR ensures donor confidentiality. Your identity will be converted to a number by the registry and kept confidential from PCOM students.

If my body is donated to PCOM, who will benefit from it?

At PCOM we have a number of programs that will benefit from your donation. Programs that will benefit include, but are not limited to:

  • Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Biomedical Sciences
  • Physician Assistant
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Forensic Medicine
  • St. Joseph’s Physical Therapy program
  • PCOM Residency Programs

Along with different academic programs, many academic-related clubs on campus wish to further their education, such as Surgery Club, Neurosurgery Club, Emergency Medicine Club, etc. We also host many outreach workshops which benefit surrounding high school and college students wishing to pursue a career in medicine.

What costs are associated with a donation?

HGR pays $100 for transporting a body from the place of death, by a licensed funeral director, to a medical teaching institution. Your next of kin or estate will be responsible for the remaining transportation cost. That's it! PCOM will then cover the cost associated with embalming, final transportation and cremation at Ivy Hill Cemetery. The ashes of a loved one can be returned to the family after studies have been completed if arrangements are made at the time of donation with the Humanity Gifts Registry.

How long will it take until my remains are returned to my family?

Anatomical studies take up to two years to be completed. Cremation will occur within one month following the completion of the anatomical studies. Please note, due to the COVID pandemic, these timelines may increase by a year.

What happens to the ashes and/or cremains of the cremated body?

Upon completion of studies, remains will be transported to Ivy Hill Cemetery where they will be cremated and the ashes interred in an established cemetery in Philadelphia. If a family wishes to have ashes returned for a private burial, special arrangements must be made through the Humanity Gifts Registry.

How do I receive the ashes of my loved one from PCOM?

The family must notify HGR that they wish to receive the ashes after the study. PCOM will notify HGR once ashes are available to be returned to families. The Registry will then notify the next of kin in writing. There are two ways PCOM can return remains:

  • Next of kin may come directly to the College and pick up remains.
  • If next of kin cannot get to the College for any reason, ashes may be sent through the United States Postal Service at no charge. A USPS tracking number will be provided to the email or phone number provided on the consent form. A member of PCOM will also be tracking the package to ensure it arrives safely.

When ashes are returned, they will arrive in a plastic rectangular urn. You will also receive two internment certificates, which will be given to a burial site if you choose this route. If you would like further information on what to expect, contact Sara Sabatino at 215-871-6447.

Consider reading "What to Expect When You Receive Cremation Ashes" by Jerri Haaven, who gives an in depth look on what to expect in these circumstances.

Is this program the same as organ donation?

No, bodies donated to PCOM through the HGR are only used for whole body education and research. If you wish to donate tissue or organs for transplants, please contact Gift of Life or Science Care.

Does PCOM conduct a memorial service for the donors?

At the beginning and end of each human anatomy course, faculty and students hold a moment of silence to remember and thank each individual who generously donated their body.

There is also a Celebration of Remembrance Ceremony, held once per year by the Humanity Gift Registry. Family members and friends are invited to this ceremony to remember and celebrate the life of their loved ones. Students who benefited from these donations will also attend and participate in the ceremony.

Can I contribute a monetary donation to honor a loved one who has donated their body?

Memorialize a body donor with a contribution to the PA-PCOM Anatomical Donor Memorial Fund. Donations can be made by:

Check - Donations should be made payable to “PCOM Foundation”. Please write “PCOM PA Donor Memorial Fund” in the memo and mail to:
Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Institutional Advancement
4180 City Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19131

Online - If you would like to donate online, please follow these steps:

  1. Go to the Anatomical Donor Memorial Fund webpage
  2. Enter Donation Amount
  3. Select “Other” and write in PA PCOM Anatomical Donor Fund
  4. Fill out the “In Memory or Honor of”
  5. Fill out “Your information”
    1. If you are a relative of a PA-PCOM Body Donor, please feel free to select the yes tab.


Sara M. Sabatino, MS
Assistant Director, PCOM Human Anatomy Laboratory
Email: sarasa@pcom.edu
Phone: 217-871-6447 | Fax: 215-871-6540
PCOM, 4170 City Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, 19131

Humanity Gifts Registry
P.O. Box 835, Philadelphia, PA 19105-0835
215-922-4440 | Fax: 215-922-4896