Good Life

Money Matters: Humanity Gifts Registry donation benefits health industry

James Rayback
James Rayback

Q: In last month’s column you wrote about the Humanity Gifts Registry. What is it and what does it do?

A: The Humanity Gifts Registry was formed in 1883 and is a nonprofit agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Its primary activity is to receive and distribute bodies donated by individuals to all of the medical and dental schools in the state for the purpose of teaching anatomy to medical and dental students.

Q: How does one use it?

A: An individual may contact the Humanity Gifts Registry at 215-922-4440 or by visiting The site has explanatory information and registration forms.

Q: What is the advantage to me?

A: Most importantly, you are donating your body to assist in medical training so doctors and dentists have a chance to work on human bodies for their education. In addition, the cost to you as compared to a funeral is usually less. The Humanity Gifts Registry will donate $100 for the transport of the body to a designated medical facility, but the donor must pay for any costs above $100, and there usually is such a cost.

Q: What do I have to do to join?

A: Obtain the information noted above, fill it out, send it in and you’ll get a receipt of registration. You then must keep the registration material and advise your family of what you are doing so they know at the time of your death to tell medical personnel that you are giving your body to the Humanity Gifts Registry. You should make numerous copies of the forms and hand them out to your children, keep one with your will and keep one with your health care power of attorney.

Q: Do I get a funeral?

A: No and yes.

No, you won’t receive a funeral close to the time of your death, because your body needs to be transported relatively quickly to a medical facility. But yes, you will receive a funeral when the medical and dental students have completed using your body for their learning purposes. A community-type of funeral is held for numerous persons once a year either in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. The body is cremated and the ashes are interred.

Q: Isn’t that group simply a bunch of body brokers?

A: No. The interesting point about the Pennsylvania setup is that it is a nonprofit agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. There is no selling of bodies or body parts in state or out of state. Bodies are not sent out of state. The people on the Board of Directors receive little to no pay. It is not a money-making operation.

Q: How long will the medical facility keep the body?

A: The guidelines suggest it is possible for research on the body to take up to two years. At the end of the medical training use of the body, the family is notified that a funeral will be held on a certain date with other bodies that were donated by other families.

Q: I am old, but will they take me?

A: Yes. There is no age limit. There may be limits based on whether or not the body is accepted because of the type of disease causing the person’s death, the condition of the body and other medical-related considerations.

Q: What should I do?

A: Check it out. Call them at the above listed telephone number or contact them by e-mail. You might find you like the idea of doing some good for society after your death.