The term anatomical gifts refers to organs, tissues, or entire bodies that are donated to medical organizations. Whole bodies are needed for anatomical instruction in medical and dental schools. Many body parts, after suitable preparation, are used for surgical implantation to treat injuries and diseases, and many are needed for medical research. Anatomical gifts thus improve or save people's lives. Many opportunities for anatomical donation are available at no cost to donors or their families.

If you want to be a donor, it is best to make arrangements in advance, and it is important to inform your family about your intention. It is also important to have a backup plan in case for any reason your gift cannot be accepted.

Organ Donation

If you want to donate your eyes and/or organs at the time of death, you need only check the organ-donor box on your driver license or fill out and carry an organ-donor card. Registration with an organization that accepts anatomical donations is advisable but usually not essential. When a person has indicated in writing his or her wish to donate organs, healthcare providers usually also seek the family's permission before removing organs. The cost of surgery to remove donors’ organs for transplantation is borne by transplant recipients.

If a person has arranged to be an organ donor and has an alternative arrangement for whole-body donation, then organ donation has priority as long as the person dies in circumstances that permit extraction of viable organs. A body from which organs have been removed is not acceptable for donation to a medical school for instruction. If a would-be organ donor dies in circumstances that do not permit organ donation, his or her family can arrange for whole-body donation.

Body Donation

A person who wants to donate his or her body to a medical institution or tissue bank should make arrangements with the chosen organization. The receiving organization should be called at the time of death. Some anatomical gift programs provide transportation of eligible bodies at no cost to donors’ families, but free transportation to a medical school is not available in the southern Finger Lakes area. A family must employ a funeral director for this function. The cost varies from one funeral home to another. If cost is a concern, then consult several funeral homes when making plans for body donation. See our Funeral Price Survey to compare price structures at different funeral homes.

Most people can qualify as donors. Although a donor must be at least 18 years old, there is no upper age limit and few medical conditions disqualify a body. A donation may be refused if an autopsy has been performed or if the donor is exceptionally obese or had a communicable disease that could pose a safety hazard to people working with the body. If you want to be a donor, make arrangements with the receiving organization, inform your family, of your intention, and explain what they should do at the time of your death.

The New York State Department of Health maintains information about organ and tissue donations. Health Care Proxy and Living Will forms are available at the website of the New York State Attorney General.

Medical Schools and Other Anatomical Gift Programs Serving the Finger Lakes Region of New York State

SUNY Upstate Medical University
Anatomical Gift Program
Dept. of Cell & Developmental Biology
766 Irving Avenue, Rm. 1133
Syracuse, NY 13210
Tel. (315) 464-4348

University of Rochester Medical Center
Anatomical Gift Program
601 Elmwood Avenue, Box 603
Rochester, NY 14642
Tel. (585) 275-2592

Lions Eye Bank at Rochester
100 Corporate Woods, Suite 130
Rochester, NY 14623
Tel. (585) 272-7890
Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network
Corporate Woods of Brighton, Building 30, Suite 220
Rochester, NY 14623
Tel. (800) 810-5494
Central New York Eye and Tissue Bank
517 East Washington Street
Syracuse NY, 13202
Tel. (315) 476-0199

Two organ and tissue procurement organizations that operate nationally are: