frequently asked questionsWe have compiled a list of the most commonly asked questions about body donation and the Body Donation Program at UC Davis.

The program was established to provide human remains for scientific studies essential to education and research.

Upon receipt of the completed documents, the BDP will notify you regarding your acceptance as a registered donor and an identification card will be sent to you.  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.

Any adult (18 years and older) can register with our program prior to death.  If a person has died and is not registered with the program, the person appointed as power of attorney for healthcare or the decedent’s surviving spouse/registered domestic partner can sign the necessary forms.

The University 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 BDP for clarification.

These, if known, will result in a refusal:

  • Hepatitis B or C
  • Tuberculosis
  • Kuru
  • Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease

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

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

Documented 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 UC 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.

At the time of death, please call the 24 hour death notification phone number located on the donor card. 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 go ahead and dispatch our transport service to take the donor into our care.

After studies are completed, the remains are cremated and scattered or interred in a manner consistent with state law.  The BDP incurs all preparation, cremation and disposition expenses.

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. 

The BDP provides only the forms to obtain a certified copy of the death certificate from the Bureau of Vital Statistics in the county where death occurred.  The cost of certified copies may vary by county.

Withdrawal from the program can be done at any time in writing.

Mail to:

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

Just call the donor program staff and request an “Update Packet” and/or a new card.  This information is used to file the death certificate; it is imperative that we have the most current and accurate information.

The BDP can provide information on programs in other states and will work with the survivors to accomplish the wishes of the donor.

No, this would be a violation of Federal Law, State Law and the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act.

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