History of the Gift Body Program
By 1955, the number of unclaimed bodies received by the two medical schools in St. Louis had dropped dramatically, leaving just 45 bodies available for Saint Louis University's medical, dental, physical therapy, nursing and graduate students in gross anatomy courses. Moreover, about half the bodies received had been autopsied.
In order to alleviate this shortage and continue the teaching of anatomy, the 1955 Missouri legislature authorized the willing of bodies to medical schools. While the law become effective in January 1956, the forms used for willing bodies proved to be a continuous source of trouble. Lawyers throughout Missouri were concerned that the will of body forms used by the schools could revoke regular wills which provided for the disposition of real and personal property. Furthermore, schools needed original documents in their files, but by law, all wills upon death needed to be filed with the probate court where the deceased resided.
To remedy these problems, a new law became effective in 1965 which made it possible for a person to make a gift of body by signing a gift form before two witnesses and having the gift notarized. As a result, the forms now used for donation are referred to as gift of body forms.
In 1969, the Missouri legislature enacted additional legislation, the Modified Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, for the benefit of transplant and research groups.