Frequently Asked Questions

What is the procedure for donating my body to the University?

By planning in advance, you can eliminate any confusion regarding your wishes. Simply call 323-442-1229 or e-mail and request that we send our brochure and donation forms to you. Upon receipt, complete the forms and return the originals to the medical school.

What are the costs involved in donating one’s body?

Free transportation of the donor to USC is provided if death occurs within a 75-mile radius. The family or heirs are responsible for this cost in all other cases. The University has its own transport service, therefore please do not contact a mortuary to provide this service for you.

Can I rescind my donation?

Yes. Written notification to our office is requested.

Are there any reasons the University may not be able to accept a body?

Body donors must be properly enrolled prior to death to ensure acceptance into our program, and for the well being of our faculty, staff and students, we cannot accept the donation of remains if the following conditions are present:

  • Hepatitis, HIV, Jakob-Creutzfeldt disease, Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Covid-19, or any other contagious disease.
  • Individuals who weigh 200 pounds or more
  • Decomposition of the body due to time or place of death
  • Trauma
  • Jaundice
  • Recent surgeries
  • If the body has been embalmed or autopsied
  • If any vital organs other than eyes have been removed for transplant donation
  • If USC is not notified of the death of the donor within 48 hours
  • Decubitus ulcers stages III & IV

Please understand that we cannot guarantee in advance that one’s body will be accepted for donation. We recommend you make alternative arrangements in the event your donation is declined.

Can a body be donated to study a specific disease?

No. Remains bequeathed to the University are primarily utilized in regularly scheduled courses in the training of physicians for the Keck School of Medicine, School of Dentistry and Physical Therapy. They may also be utilized for other scientific and instructional purposes. No written report of our findings concerning a donated body will be made to any individual or organization.

How does one obtain a Certificate of Death?

The University will file the Certificate of Death for the remains accepted by the University. Certified copies can be obtained by applying to the Department of Health, Vital Statistics Division, in the county where death occurred.

What will happen to my body when the University has completed their studies?

Upon completion of our studies, our donors are cremated and scattered by the University consistent with applicable law at no expense to the family. The length of study cannot be predicted at the time of donation, but typically range from 2 to 4 years.  For those families who will be receiving the cremated remains, the cremated remains must be picked up within 3 years after the date of cremation.  If we do not hear from the family or designated person within the 3 years following cremation, the cremated remains will be sent to the Los Angeles County Coroner for disposition consistent with the County’s practices in place at that time.