Frequently Asked Questions about the C.A. Pound Human Identification Laboratory
(CAPHIL) Skeletal Donation Program

What is an Anthropological Body Donation Program?

Anthropological Body Donation Programs exist primarily to support education and research about human skeletal anatomy.  These programs are strongly associated with forensic anthropology programs, and support the study of how human skeletons change or vary because of age, ancestry, gender, height or weight, and bony response to past or recent trauma, to name a few areas.  This is essentially a skeleton donation program.

Why are Anthropological Body Donation Programs necessary?

Forensic anthropology is an important science that assists in solving crimes and reuniting families separated by warfare, crime, or accident.  To improve our understanding of what the skeleton can tell us about human identity, behavior, health, and cause of death, we need programs like this in many parts of the United States. In addition, anthropological programs serve families that would like to use body donation but are excluded from other programs due to the stricter requirements of medical schools. 

Is your program just another version of that at a Medical School?

No.  We are similar in that we can both accept individuals who wish to deed their entire bodies for educational purposes.  However, the anthropological program accepts a broader range of applicants. The CAPHIL accepts individuals who were subject to autopsy, organ donation (except bone marrow), passing due to trauma, or who experience a prolonged gap between the moment of passing and discovery. 

Why are bone marrow donors excluded?

Those who choose the CAPHIL program are choosing to donate their skeletons for educational and research purposes.  Bone marrow donation removes or causes damage to most of the skeleton, making such donors unacceptable for the program. 

If I am donating my entire body in order to donate my skeleton, what happens to the rest of my body?

All of the non-skeletal portions are removed and disposed of in a manner respectful for human tissues and in compliance with Florida law. 

Can I have the soft tissue cremated and returned to my family as cremains (cremated remains)?

No.  Once your body is bequeathed to the CAPHIL, all components will remain in the possession of the CAPHIL until they are disposed of in a manner respectful to human tissues and in compliance with Florida law.

What happens to my skeleton after the soft tissue is removed?

All skeletons are cleaned and labeled with an archive number that connects the skeleton to our program records while protecting the identity of the actual donor and donor family.  Thereafter the skeleton is used for educational or research purposes that is based on what you gave consent to in the donation paperwork.  

Can I donate my body to the CAPHIL and request natural decomposition rather than laboratory removal of soft tissue?

Yes, if you make a direct request.  Cleaning to remove residues will still occur. Your body may be used to study the natural decomposition process. This may include transfer within the state to a body farm for observational research. Studying the decomposition process at body farms allows forensic anthropologists to better estimate time since death and taphonomic effects in a range of environmental conditions.

Does your research alter or affect my remains before you remove the skeleton?

Yes, when CAPHIL research includes identifying the features of trauma.  Donated remains may be altered through trauma studies from gunshot, crushing, cut marks, burning or other forms of trauma, and through chemical testing not including genetic (DNA) testing.  Although not required by state law, we ask donors to provide consent to destructive research, although we cannot indicate or limit the type of destructive research that could occur. 

If I consent to having images taken of my fleshed remains, will my actual face or recognizable facial features be shown or displayed in your research articles or lectures? 

We will not use your face or facial features, or any other potentially identifying features (such as tattoos or unique medical appliances) in any imagery produced by CAPHIL, unless YOU consent directly to such use.  If your next of kin objects to use of your face, facial features, or identifying features, we will not use it even if you have consented.  We are concerned to honor your wishes and protect the privacy of your relatives.  Most of our research interests do not require display or documentation of the face or other identifying features.

What research do you conduct that requires facial photos or images?

Developing or testing facial reconstruction (techniques for estimating the facial features based on the structures of the skull) for identification or for age related changes, is one area.  Documenting how health changes in the skeleton are reflected in the soft tissue is another area. 

What research do you conduct that requires images of other identifying features, like tattoos or unique medical appliances?

We study how cultural features, like presence of tattoos, choice of tattoo image or location on the body, is associated with biological identity (such as population based choices for tattoo images, like UF graduates choosing a gator image).  Imaging identifying features allows us to collect information on sufficient individuals until trends, if any, can be observed.  Awareness of trends helps us indicate how confident we are that a cultural feature is a part of an identity or group membership. 

Will donation to the CAPHIL allow me to have a “free” funeral?

No.  The donor’s estate or next of kin must cover the typical costs of funeral preparation that involve a body donation.  This includes the cost of transport, and possibly embalming if the family chooses it.  Embalming is discouraged for donation to the CAPHIL, and is not allowed for donors electing the natural decomposition option.  

So by “discouraged” you mean I should not have my remains embalmed if I want to donate to the CAPHIL program?

Yes.  All of our educational and research projects proceed from a natural context by beginning with unembalmed remains.  We can work with your family if embalming is elected in order to engage in a viewing or other funeral process, but we might reject your donation due to the cost of disposing of embalmed tissues.  We will reject your donation if your remains are embalmed and your family requests natural decomposition.  Embalming prevents natural decomposition, so we would not be able to comply. 

Many deeded body programs subsidize the cost of transport.  Your instructions say “as funds allow.”  What does this mean?

As long as funds are available the CAPHIL will subsidize up to $200 of transportation costs.  When funds are exhausted, the donor must assume all costs or seek an alternate donation program.  Our donation program is small and is very dependent on the generosity of its donors.  The primary expression of that generosity is that those providing a body donation also cover the costs of transport.   

What if I just want to have a bundle burial but don’t want to donate my skeleton?  Can I hire your program to prepare my skeleton? 

Yes, for a fee.  Please contact us for our fee schedule.  However, you will have to contract with a funeral director to transfer your remains to and from this laboratory.  We can help you with that process, just contact us.

How do I initiate the process of donation?

You complete a few simple forms and sign them in the presence of witnesses.  The signatures do not need to be notarized.  The witnesses must be over the age of 18.  One of the witnesses must have no interest or stake in your choice to donate your body.  We recommend informing your next of kin of your wishes, and leaving copies of the bequeathal form with your selected funeral home, attorney, next of kin, and in your own files.  Your application will be stored securely when we receive it.

What is the procedure at the time of death?

The family or estate should contact the selected funeral home and ask them to contact the CAPHIL.  The program director will work with the funeral home to schedule transport to the CAPHIL.

May a customary or traditional type of funeral service be held prior to transfer of the body to the CAPHIL?

Yes.  It is the privilege of the family to decide whether there is to be a traditional funeral service with a casket and the body present or if there is to be a memorial after the body has been sent to the CAPHIL.  However, in the event that a funeral is to be held, it is important that the local mortician be informed of the body donation before the body is removed to the funeral home.

Can I arrange to visit the skeleton of a loved one I know was donated? 

Please contact us. 

Can next of kin arrange a body donation?

Yes.  The person or persons legally entitled to custody of the body may sign the release form, described in this brochure, to make a donation. 

Can I donate against the will of my spouse or next of kin?

Technically you may do so.  However if the CAPHIL is aware of a conflict, we will decline the donation.


What if I have expressed a wish to bequeath my body but neglect to sign the deeded body form before death occurs?

Your survivors can carry out your wishes by immediately notifying the CAPHIL of your death and then signing the release form.

If I become deceased far from the CAPHIL can I still donate?

If your estate covers the cost of transport, yes.  However, the next of kin may want to consider donating to the nearest body donation program if there is a closer one.

Is there an age restriction on donation?

No.  However, individuals must be of legal age to sign the donation forms.  Parents may donate the bodies of infants or children using the Next-of-Kin release. 

Can I alter or revoke my donation request?

Yes.  Simply notify the CAPHIL that you wish to cancel the donation. You may contact us by phone, email, fax, or letter.  Any forms previously sent to the CAPHIL will be securely disposed of when your donation is revoked.

Will the CAPHIL pay for my body?

No.  By law, educational programs utilizing human bodies are not allowed to purchase a human body from a donor, his or her estate, or next of kin.

Can the CAPHIL refuse my donation?

Yes.  We will not accept the donation if the next of kin is unwilling to proceed with your donation.  We cannot accept individuals with prion-related infectious diseases.  Donors exceeding 300lbs in weight cannot be accepted.  Donations will also be refused if the program is at capacity. 

Will having an infectious disease make a donor unacceptable? 

No, unless that infection is prion-related (such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease).  Many serious infectious agents, such as those causing hepatitis, HIV, and tuberculosis, cannot survive the skeletonization process, so there is no risk of transmission from skeletal material.  Our donor intake procedures include standard precautions for prevention of disease transmission.

Is there any other way I can support the CAPHIL, besides body donation?

Yes.  You can choose to make a financial gift to the CAPHIL.  Financial donations support improvement of educational resources by providing for maintenance, updated equipment, and scholarships.  Please contact the program director if you have an interest in supporting the program financially.  

If I require additional information or advice, where may I obtain it?

Contact Dr. Phoebe R. Stubblefield,
C.A. Pound Human Identification Lab
2033 Mowry Rd Rm G17
PO Box 103615
Gainesville FL 32610-3615
Main: (352) 273-8320
Fax: (352) 273-8319