Willed Body FAQs

willed body leis on cremations

*NOTE that the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM), Willed Body Program is referred to as the WBP.

Commonly Asked Questions Regarding Body Donation

The WBP allows you to donate your body after death for use in medical science and education. Donated bodies are primarily used in the education of medical and graduate students. Other ways that your donation could be utilized is through research and anatomical training for physicians, physical therapists, emergency medical technicians, and forensic anthropologists to name a few other fields of expertise that train through our program.

Upon request, an Anatomical Gift Donation Form authorizing this selfless gift will be sent to you to be completed and returned. Once the original signed Anatomical Gift Donation Form has been received, reviewed and accepted, you will be sent an Acknowledgement letter and a Donor Identification (ID) Card. The Donor ID card should be carried with you at all times.

Yes, it is possible. However, the Anatomical Gift Donation Form must be completed by your legal Next-of-Kin (NOK), and be accompanied by a legal document that shows intent to donate along with authorization that he/she is authorized to sign on your behalf. All documents will be reviewed by the Director who will make the final decision. Your legal NOK should call the WBP immediately at 808-692-1445, as there is a time frame in which the body must be physically received. Pre-enrollment is highly encouraged.

No, it is illegal to sell or receive money for a body.

All donors must be 18 years of age or older. However, there is no upper age limit for donating.

Anyone 21 years of age or older, preferably someone expected to be a survivor, may act as a witness. Two witness signatures are required on the Anatomical Gift Donation Form.

Yes. Please inform your family and close friends of your wishes. Your legal Next-of-Kin/Agent or Power of Attorney should have access to a copy of your completed Anatomical Gift Donation Form. Please keep a copy of the completed form for your records.

Yes, it is possible, but for internal transplantable organs only. These include cornea, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas, brain and spinal cord only. It is not possible to be a body donor if tissues, such as skin, muscle or bone are donated.

For more information concerning organ donations please call: Legacy of Life Hawaiʻi (808-599-7630) or the Hawaiʻi Lion’s Eye Bank & Makana Foundation (808-536-7416).

Donors who die on Oahu: The WBP will cover all fees for transportation of your body to the School of Medicine and cremation.

Donors who die on a neighbor island or out-of-state: The costs for mortuary preparation and transportation to Honolulu will be at the expense of your family or estate. Once your body has arrived at the Honolulu Airport, the WBP will cover the transportation fees from the Honolulu Airport to the School of Medicine and cremation.

*The WBP does NOT provide Death Certificates. These must be purchased through the State of Hawaii Department of Health (DOH), Vital Records Office.

Your body may not be accepted if we are not notified within 72 hours after the death, have an infectious disease (Hep-B, Hep-C, HIV, Prion diseases, active TB, active or presumed COVID-19) or traumatic death. The final decision to accept is at the discretion of the Director. See General Information page for more details.

If the WBP declines or refuses the donation of an individual, it is the family’s responsibility to make final arrangements. Thus, if you are considering body donation, we suggest that you make alternative arrangements with a funeral director/mortuary in the event that the WBP is not able to accept your body. How often does this happen? Seldom is the donation declined or refused. The majority (over 99.5%) of our registered Donors are accepted into the Program upon death.

Yes. Please send us your request to cancel your donation in writing. If you are canceling because you are moving and would like to join a program near your new home, you may register at the nearest medical school.

No. Viewing of the Donor’s body is not possible at the School of Medicine. It may be possible to arrange a viewing/visitation at a local mortuary, at the families’ expense, if arrangements have been made ahead of time and coordinated with the WBP Director.

Medical education and research time averages between 2-18 months with most cremains being returned within 12 months.

Your body will be cremated.

Yes. The individual you designate to receive your cremains should be advised of your wishes and should keep us informed of their current address and telephone number. You would specify this request in box 33 of the Anatomical Gift Donation form or in box 16 of the Anatomical Gift Update form.

You may choose to have your cremains scattered at sea during a memorial service honoring all donors. Your NOK or responsible person will be sent an invitation to the memorial service, after you have completed your teaching program. You would specify this request in box 33 of the Anatomical Gift Donation form or in box 16 of the Anatomical Gift Update form.

By making a permanent body donation to the WBP, you allow the WBP to retain part of your body. On occasion, an organ or body part may be exceptionally useful for teaching or research purposes and it is desirable to preserve and retain it permanently for future education. The remainder of your body will be cremated, with cremains being scattered at sea, or returned based on your request. We highly recommend choosing ‘Yes’, as it allows our program more flexibility in placing you in the teaching/research program best for you.

Every three to four years, you will be mailed a blue two-paged Anatomical Gift Update Form to ensure that it is still your wish to donate your body after your death and to make sure that all the information in your record is current. Should you or any of your listed contact person(s) have any change in information before an Anatomical Gift Update Form is sent, please contact our office at 808-692-1445 or by email, wbdonor@hawaii.edu. Failure to complete and return the form in a timely fashion may result in our inability to accept your donation at the time of your death.

Should your death occur on the US Mainland, Canada, or Puerto Rico, the nearest medical school may accept your donation to a Willed Body Program as stated by the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act.  You should notify your Next-of-Kin (NOK) or responsible person if you desire this option. If you are adamant to donate to JABSOM WBP, please contact us as soon as possible for important instructions. The donated body must be prepared for shipment to Oahu by a mortuary. Thus, the family or the estate must cover mortuary and airport transportation costs to Honolulu. As prices may vary, we recommend all our Donors contact their local mortuaries for the current price listings. Once the Donor has arrived at the Honolulu Airport, we will arrange transportation to the School of Medicine.

Yes. The WBP is appreciative of tax-deductible donations. Family and friends of Donors wishing to make a monetary donation in memory of their loved one may make a donation to the Willed Body Program via UH Foundation. For further information, please call 808-692-1445 or email wbdonor@hawaii.edu

The WBP can submit a free basic Obituary Notice on your behalf to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (HSA). A template from the HSA will be provided to you upon request. However, if family would like something more in depth, then they may do so by contacting the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Legal Ads Department directly at 808-529-4344. We can also verify your death for your loved ones with other newspaper organizations if needed.

Your physician, the WBP, and DOH work together to complete the Death Certificate. It is very important that the information provided on the original Anatomical Gift Donation Form and the Update Form is accurate. Incorrect information will cause a delay in the processing of the certificate. The WBP does NOT provide certified copies of your Death Certificates, these must be purchased directly from the DOH. We will notify the Next-of-Kin (NOK), or designated provider when the certificate is complete, and we will share information on how to obtain certified copies of your Death Certificate.

Do you still have questions?

We are happy to help you. Please give us a call at 808-692-1445 between the hours of 8:00am and 4:30pm, HST, Monday through Friday. If you call outside of our department hours, on weekends, or State Holidays, we will return your call as soon as possible.

Contact Information:
University of Hawaiʻi
Dept. of Anatomy, Biochemistry and Physiology Willed Body Program
651 Ilalo Street, BSB 110
Honolulu, HI 96813
Phone: 808-692-1445
E-mail: wbdonor@hawaii.edu

Thank you!
The Willed Body Program Staff