Laboratory of Human Osteology
Maxwell Museum of Anthropology
MSC01 1050
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131-0001
(505) 277-3535

Donor Frequently Asked Questions:

Informing your Family

19. If my family does not want to have me donated, how can I ensure they do not block my donation after death? Probably the best way to ensure your wishes are honored is to inform a number of people, including family, friends, and/or your attorney. Many of our donors include a clause in their wills specifying their wishes, but in some cases, wills are not opened until weeks after the intended donor has passed away. Remember, this is a legal contract between you and our laboratory, witnessed by two individuals, and subject to the New Mexico Anatomical Gifts Act (Section 24-6-1 to 24-6-9 NMSA 1978). Legally, your family cannot prevent you from donating your remains once you have signed this contract.

20. My family wants me to have a full funeral with a viewing prior to donation. Are there any special procedures they need to follow? As stated in Question 13, we cannot receive embalmed bodies because these chemicals damage the skeletal remains. If your family would like to have a memorial service or funeral, please make sure they understand that your body cannot be preserved.

21. What about cremation? Please refer to Question 17.

22. My family is upset about the idea of not having ANY remains to bury or cremate. How can I alleviate their concerns?
You can tell your family and friends that your skeletal remains are going to be used for scientific research, which will contribute to our knowledge of the processes of aging, disease, and occupational affects on the skeleton. Stress that you want this to happen, and that you feel this is the best use for your remains. If they understand that donation is important to you, they will probably feel less concerned. Also, just because there are no remains to be buried or scattered does not mean that your family and friends cannot have a memorial service to celebrate your life. They are also allowed to visit your skeletal remains after the rendering process is complete (please see Question 25).

23. Who fills out my death certificate?
If your body is autopsied at the Office of the Medical Investigator, they will complete the death certificate. If your body is not autopsied, our lab takes care of this. Once the death certificate is complete, it is filed with the Albuquerque satellite branch of the New Mexico Vital Records Office, which forwards the certificate to the main office in Santa Fe. Generally, it takes one to two business days once the death certificate has been filed for it to become available to family members.

24. Who does my family contact to get a copy of my death certificate? If you die in the State of New Mexico, your family should contact the New Mexico Bureau of Vital Records. The address and telephone number are:

Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics
Department of Health/P.H.D.
1190 St. Francis Drive
Santa Fe, NM 87502-6110
(505) 827-2338

Our laboratory can provide your family with the form they need for death certificate requests, or the Bureau of Vital Records can forward one to them. If you are in the Albuquerque area and wish to pick up copies of the death certificate, you can go to the Stanford Public Health Office on the north campus of the University of New Mexico. Hours are limited at this office, so we suggest you call ahead to ensure the office is open ((505) 841-4100). The cost for each copy of the death certificate is $5.00, and cash is not accepted. Please be sure your family members have identification.
If you die in another state, your relatives will need to contact the vital records office in that state.

25. My relatives would like to visit my skeletal remains. Is this possible? Yes. As soon as the rendering process is complete, they will be able to view the remains. We ask that they call our lab to arrange an appointment so that we can set aside a quiet corner of our lab and lay out your skeletal remains.