The Family’s Role


Why donate?

 One reason people donate their brain or a loved one’s brain is to obtain a confirmed diagnosis (from an autopsy report) of a neurological disorder. There is no blood test that can confirm the diagnoses for these conditions. Brain donation and autopsy are the only way to know what disease — or combination of diseases — was present.  Another reason for donation is to support research into the causes, treatments and cures for neurodegenerative disorders.  Discoveries made possible by tissue donation provide hope to families affected by brain disease. One donated brain can provide tissue for hundreds of independent research studies. The gift of brain donation enables discoveries that will have a lasting impact.  The legacy of donation offers future generations the possibility of improved health and someday, a cure.

“My husband, Jack, has made a contribution.
He has given back for future families by donating his brain, so possibly we will have research that will slow down or end the disease.”
–Fran Zehmer

The process

 The donor’s family plays a key role in the final decision of whether or not to obtain an autopsy and donate tissue. Family must give consent for the autopsy and brain donation to take place. This makes it very important that families and, if possible, the donor to discuss and preplan the decision for donation. Donors must register for the program by contacting the Brain Tissue Resource Facility coordinator to initiate the registration process at (804) 828-9664 or by filling out a donor registration form (see  Forms Page ) and mailing it to the address provided.  Registration forms can also be emailed to or faxed to (804) 828-2010.  Information packets for the family, any nursing or hospice care facilities and for funeral directors can also be downloaded from this page.  An autopsy will not be performed unless a valid consent is signed by the next of kin and a witness, and a signed death certificate is obtained. Consent for an autopsy and/or tissue donation may be withdrawn at any time.