Body Donor Program

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

What is the Humanity Gifts Registry?

The Humanity Gifts Registry is a nonprofit agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania concerned primarily with the receipt and distribution of bodies donated to all medical and dental schools in the state for teaching purposes. The Registry, formerly called the Anatomical Board, has been in existence since 1883.

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 health care practitioners. For more information, please read “Body Donation and its Relevance in Anatomy Learning – A Review” by Rajkumari Ajita.

How do I donate my body directly to Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine?

In Pennsylvania all donations must be made to the Humanity Gift Registry of Pennsylvania. We cannot accept donations directly to the college. If you wish to have your body benefit the human anatomy program at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine you must make your request with the Humanity Gift Registry. When completing the donor registration form please write-in “I would like to designate the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine for this donation.”

I live locally, will students know my identity?

Part of working with HGR ensures that a donor’s identity remains anonymous. Donors’ identities remain strictly confidential.

If my body is donated to Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, 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
  • University of the Sciences Physical Therapy program
  • Widener University Physical Therapy program

Along with different academic programs, there are also many academic related clubs on campus who 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?

The Humanity Gifts Registry pays $100 toward the cost of transporting a body from the place of death, by a licensed funeral director, to a medical teaching institution. If transportation costs exceed $100, those costs are fall on to the responsibility of the next of kin or the estate. Costs associated with embalming and cremation are covered by the College.

How long will it take until my remains are cremated?

In most cases, cremation will occur within one year following anatomical study. However, sometimes anatomical study will extend beyond a year. In that case, it could take up to two years from the time of donation until cremation.

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 can be made.

How do I receive the ashes of my loved one from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine?

Humanity Gift Registry will be notified by Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine once ashes are available to be returned to families. The Registry will then notify the next of kin in writing. There are two ways the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine 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, due to geographical location or any other 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 our college will also be tracking the package to ensure it arrives safely.

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 the College conduct a memorial service for the donors?

At the beginning and ending of each human anatomy course, faculty and students hold a moment of silence in order 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.