Information for Funeral Homes

A brain donation is a precious gift, one that meaningfully advances research on brain disorders. There are many ways funeral homes can contribute to the brain donation process. First, they can help us identify potential donors by discussing brain donation with their patrons and referring interested parties to the HBTRC to learn more. Second, funeral homes can coordinate with the HBTRC to make their facilities available for brain removal. Third, funeral home technicians, who are often trained to carry out brain removals, can work with the HBTRC to perform this delicate procedure.

If you are interested in collaborating with the HBTRC to assist with referrals and/or specimen recovery, please contact us during office hours at 1-800-BRAINBANK.

Requirements: A preparation or embalming table is necessary for brain recovery, as is access to a body refrigeration unit or means to facilitate mortuary refrigeration of the cranium to preserve brain tissue until the recovery procedure occurs.

Please also see above for our COVID-19-related requirements.

How you can help the family prepare: • Please consider suggesting brain donation to potential patrons and decedents’ families. Key points to include in your conversation with them are:

For additional information, please refer patrons and their family to our ‘Brain Donation’ page.

• If patrons are interested in brain donation, please inform them of whether your facility meets the requirements listed above. If your facility does not meet the necessary conditions for recovery, we ask you to inform the family and contact us to discuss a back-up plan. It may be possible for a nearby mortuary service to assist with recovery and/or refrigeration. If refrigeration is not feasible, it is also possible to place ice around the decedent's head. If the family wants to have an open casket service, please assure them that brain donation will not interfere with their wishes, as incisions from the recovery process are minimal.

How you can help at time of death: • Ensure that the decedent's body is placed in refrigeration as soon as possible, within 6 hours of time of death or earlier if possible. Timeliness is critical to the success of brain donation for research purposes, and as such, it may be necessary to perform recoveries off-hours. We will contact you to discuss scheduling.

• If a funeral home staff member with appropriate training is not available, the HBTRC will arrange for a recovery specialist to perform the removal. We will contact you to discuss logistics. Upon arrival at your facility, the specialist will need to use a preparation or embalming table for the recovery. Specialists will bring their own equipment, clean up after themselves and will stay with the brain until a courier arrives for transport.

Costs: We are a non-profit research organization and kindly request that you waive any facility fees, so that we are able to help donor families realize their loved ones’ wishes for brain donation. We do not want families to be charged for any aspect of brain donation. If additional costs for a brain recovery need to be paid, please contact us to discuss them.

Your cooperation is a vital part in making brain donation a success!

Please contact us if you have any questions.

Contact Information: Our phone number is (617) 855-2400 and our Fax number is (617) 855-3199. Additionally, you can contact us via email at HBTRC@MCLEAN.HARVARD.EDU

McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School Affiliate

Basic Neuroscience at McLean Hospital

Harvard Medical School Affiliate