What Do You Know About Body Donation? An Introduction to Vanderbilt’s Anatomical Donation Program

In the final post of our “what can you do with your body” series, we want to feature Vanderbilt’s Anatomical Donation Program. This program utilizes your body after you pass for clinical training of medical students-“Voluntary whole body donations by generous individuals are relied upon as a resource to help physicians and other medical personnel complete their required learning as they prepare themselves to provide outstanding care for the living.”

The Vanderbilt Anatomical Donation program is incredibly well run and we’ve highlighted some aspects of the program that you should know before selecting this for yourself:


1. Vanderbilt takes on the logistical and financial burden. “Vanderbilt provides the following services free of charge for the donor and their family: transportation from the site of the donor’s death within Tennessee, specialized embalming procedures, cremation and interment in our burial site, or the return of ashes to the designated person.”

2. Vanderbilt University Medical Center hosts an Annual Memorial Service to honor those who donated to the program. “The Memorial Service is a wonderful opportunity to interact with the families of our donors and to show respect for their generosity.”


1. There are a fair amount of exclusions in which Vanderbilt cannot accept a body:


  • Infectious Diseases
  • Sepsis
  • Advanced Decomposition
  • Unhealed Wounds or Recent Surgeries
  • A BMI greater than 30
  • A height greater than 6’4”
  • Bodies that have been embalmed
  • Bodies that have been autopsied
  • Bodies subjected to trauma or acts of violence
  • Bodies subjected to organ donation
  • Donations outside of Tennessee
  • Donations in which time of death cannot be determined or that exceed an
  • Acceptable amount of time for the program

*Because of these exclusions, Vanderbilt does recommend you make alternative plans in the event that they cannot accept the body.

2. Vanderbilt cannot accept body donation decisions made by next of kin. If you would like to donate your body to their program, you must start the process yourself and complete the required forms at least 30 days before you pass.

I have heard such great things about the Vanderbilt program and hope this brings awareness to those who wish to donate their body for learning purposes.

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