- Body Donation
- Become a Donor
- Procedure – After Death
- Questions & Answers
BODY DONATION FOR PLASTINATION
A SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTION TO ANATOMIC TEACHING AND MEDICAL ENLIGHTENMENT
Anatomy has the task of imparting knowledge about the structure of the human body. It depends on people willing to donate their bodies to medical education and research after death.
With his groundbreaking invention of plastination, Dr. Gunther von Hagens decisively improved anatomical teaching and made it accessible to the broad, public with the BODY WORLDS exhibitions.
The cornerstone of this work is a special body donation program that Gunther von Hagens initiated at the University of Heidelberg in the early 1980’s and transferred to the Institute for Plastination (IfP) in 1993. To this day, the IfP is the administrator of this body donation program. During their lifetime, the body donors have written instructions that they will forgo burial in the event of their death and that their bodies will be transferred to the Institute for Plastination for the purpose of anatomical teaching, research, and medical education.
Body Donation for Plastination is not a fixed contract, but a declaration of will, which can be revoked by either party, at any time and without cause. The Institute for Plastination has no legal obligation to accept a body, and the donor has no legal obligation to donate their body. There are no fees due by the body donors, nor do the donors or the bereaved receive any compensation.
If you reside in the EU and would like to become a body donor for Plastination, we will be happy to send you all the necessary documents. Please use our Contact Form.
HOW DO I BECOME A BODY DONOR FOR PLASTINATION?
Please note that at the moment we are not actively accepting new donor registrations from outside of the EU. In the event that this changes, we will be sure to update this website. If you reside in the EU are interested in becoming a body donor for plastination, please contact our body donation office in Germany in writing or by telephone.
Institute for Plastination
Body donation office
Im Bosseldorn 17
69126 Heidelberg, Germany
Tel.: +49-6221-331150 – weekdays between 9:00 and 16:00 (European Time)
Or in North America:
Tel: +213-291-9572 – weekdays between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. (Pacific Time)
In the event we are accepting new donations, our office will take your contact details to send you an information brochure and all the necessary documents.
The information set sent also contains body donation forms, which you should fill out the forms in duplicate and send them both back to us signed by the donor. You will then be registered as a body donor in our program. As confirmation, you will receive one of the completed donation forms countersigned by the IfP. You will also receive a body donor card, which you should carry with you along with your photo ID, if possible.
If relatives do not agree with your body donation for plastination, your signatures should be notarized on both completed documents.
Some considerations that you may want to review regarding body donation for plastination are clearly summarized in the leaflet Guide for Donors.
Body Donation for Plastination is not a fixed contract, but a declaration of will, which can be revoked by either party, at any time without cause.
ARE THERE ANY REQUIREMENTS?
Please note that at this time we are only accepting new donors from within Europe. Generally, any person who is 18 or older can register as a body donor with the Institute for Plastination. Written consent from a legal guardian is required for minors. Existing illnesses, old age or amputated limbs do not usually constitute an obstacle.
The following requirements must be met for acceptance of a deceased:
- The living, written consent form“Body Donation for Plastination – Disposition of the Donor” must be on file at the Institute for Plastination. This declaration of consent includes the waiver of a burial.
- The body donor must have died a natural death, i.e. not a violent death.
- The body must be largely intact, i.e. there must be no extensive, accident-related internal injuries and no autopsy in a pathological or forensic institute must have taken place.
- In the case of highly contagious diseases and other unforeseeable circumstances, the IfP will decides on the acceptance of the body donation on a case by case basis. This also applies in the case of extreme obesity and advanced states of decomposition.
- If a body donor is also an organ donor, a viable organ donation naturally has priority. The IfP will still accept the body, provided that the body is transferred to the IfP immediately after organ removal.
Please keep in mind that the Institute for Plastination bares no legal obligation to accept a deceased person, regardless of when the registered for body donation.
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE EVENT OF MY DEATH?
After your death, the Institute for Plastination must be informed as soon as possible. Therefore, make sure that during your lifetime someone you trust is informed about your decision to become a body donor. This person can be, for example, a relative, a close friend or your family doctor.
We can be reached by telephone:
In Germany (European Time)
On weekdays between 9:00 and 16:00 at: +49-6221-331150
Outside office hours at: +49-160-7455188 You can leave a message here; we will call you back as soon as possible.
Or in North America (Pacific Time)
On weekdays between 9:00 and 16:00 at: +1-213-291-9572 Please leave a message outside of office hours.
When possible, the IfP will initiate the transfer within Germany at its own expense as quickly as possible. For donors outside of Germany, transportation to our institute will need to be arranged through a local funeral home, at the expense of the donor or their family.
Before the transfer, the death certificate must be applied for at the responsible registry office. Your next of kin or the person making arrangements for you should be able to handle this. The following documents are normally required for this:
- attestation of death (issued by the doctor who determined the death),
- a copy or a certified copy of the birth certificate of the deceased,
- a copy or a certified copy of the marriage and/or divorce certificate of the deceased.
Make sure that your relatives or your trusted parties have access to these documents.
In the event that you have neither relatives nor a person you trust who can apply for a death certificate from the registry office for you, a local mortuary or the IfP may take on this task. If you would like to IfP to do this, you must authorize us to do so. If needed, please request a corresponding form from the IfP. In this case, you should also send the IfP a certified copy of your birth certificate and your marriage and/or divorce certificate.
Further information and recommendations for action are clearly summarized in the guidelines for bereaved relatives, the Guide for Survivors.
Checklist for survivors
- Call a doctor who will certify death and issue an attestation.
- Inform the Institute for Plastination by telephone.
- Store the body as cool as possible until it is picked up by the IfP.
- If there are delays, arrange for a funeral home to transport the body to the nearest morgue.
- Obtain the death certificate from the responsible registry office.
- Give the attestation and death certificate to the IfP when picking up the body.
As a body donor residing in Germany who dies within Germany, you will not incur any fees. In the event you are outside of Germany, you or your next of kin will be responsible for the cost of transporting your body to our authorized facility. There are no funeral expenses, unless the family or next of kin organize a service at their own expense. Body donors nor surviving dependents will receive any compensation.
The Institute for Plastination bears the costs of the transfer within Germany. The transfer usually takes place with the institute’s own Bodymobile. In individual cases, the IfP commissions a funeral home at its own expense.
We intend to continue this free collection service within Germany on a permanent basis, although we cannot guarantee this in the future.
In the case of transfers from abroad, it is the responsibility of the bereaved to contract a suitable funeral home at their own cost.
Which costs does the institute not cover?
- transfers from abroad
- temporary transfer and storage of a corpse in a morgue (e.g. overnight, weekends or holidays)
- Transfers to the IfP by a funeral home not commissioned by the IfP
- official fees (e.g. issuance of the death certificate and postmortem examination)
- funeral services
Frequent questions about body donation
We always try to consider individually expressed wishes, such as a certain pose. However, we must ask for your understanding that we cannot guarantee the implementation of such requests. This is because the possible plastination results are dependent on several different factors that are not predictable at the time of disposition. Above all, this includes age and physical condition, any existing illnesses, the cause of death and the time that elapsed between death and arrival in our laboratories, or the status of decomposition.
As a body donor for plastination, you can also be registered as an organ donor simultaneously. In very many cases, however, organ donation is not a viable option, because the prerequisites are specific and difficult to meet. For example, if a serious illness has led to death that will usually prevent organ donation, or if the organ cannot be removed quickly enough, this will also affect the ability to donate an organ.
If organ donation is possible in the event of death, this life saving procedure takes priority. The IfP may still accept the body, provided that the body is transferred to the IfP immediately after organ removal.
Body Donation for Plastination is not a fixed contract, but a declaration of will, which can be revoked by either party at any time without cause. If you want to reverse your decision, please let us know in writing in an informal letter by post or email. We will then remove your details from our database and send you a confirmation of your withdrawal.
The IfP does not provide any information about what exactly happened to a body donation. There are legal reasons for this and we are convinced that it is better for the bereaved to remember the person concerned as they knew them during their lifetime.
To be able to make a diagnosis with certainty, detailed, systematic examinations of the entire body and histological examinations, as is usual in a pathological autopsy, are required. However, the investigations carried out by the IfP mainly cover the normal structure of the human body. Illnesses and causes of death are only examined with regard to their importance for medical education. The IfP can therefore not diagnose illnesses or the cause of death.
Immediately upon arrival at our laboratory, the body is preserved ("embalmed") by injecting chemicals into the blood vessels and remains in this state for several months before being subjected to preparation and plastination. If possible, these steps are planned and prepared with the help of the medical file. A decision is made as to how the organs, body parts or the whole body are to be plastinated, taking into account the underlying disease and the cause of death, as well as the provisions expressed in the disposal form.
The individual plastination steps are very labor and time intensive; on average, it takes two to three years for a body donation to become a plastinate.