Resources: End-Of-Life Care and Death Education

End-Of-Life Planning Forms

One of the most important steps anyone can take in planning a funeral—especially for your own funeral wishes—is to make as many decisions as possible in advance and write them down. An end-of-life planning form is available from different sources and comes in many shapes and sizes, but in all cases the idea is to help you understand what decisions must be made, and give you a place to record them.

You can download a free version called the “Funeral Rough Draft” at by clicking this link.

A Web search for funeral planning will turn up a large number of forms and guides, as will a search at online booksellers. Here are a few to get you started if you’re researching more options:


The following links take you to organizations and Web resources covering funeral service, death education, and different issues related to end-of-life care.

National Home Funeral Alliance
With free membership and a Web site filled with information for consumers, the NHFA is the premier national organization focused on helping people understand and take control of the funeral process. Their mission is to educate the public to their choices and provide clear information about all things relating to home funerals. Even if you don’t intend to actually hold a funeral at home, the education and materials available from NHFA can help you better understand your options.

National Caregivers Library
This large, online compendium contains material for consumers and caregivers alike, on a host of topics related to death, dying, and the end of life. The library consists of hundreds of useful articles, forms, checklists and links to topic-specific external resources. It is organized into logical categories that address the key needs of caregivers and their loved ones, as well as clergy and employers.

CaringInfo is a consumer education and engagement program of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO). CaringInfo provides state-specific advance directives free of charge, plus free resources and information to help people make decisions about end-of-life care and services before a crisis. Other services include counseling and brochures on topics related to planning ahead, grief, caring for those who are seriously ill, and understanding hospice and palliative care services.

Hospice Foundation of America
The HFA provides programs for the public designed to assist individual consumers of health care who are coping with issues of caregiving, terminal illness, and grief. Its programs for healthcare professionals are designed to improve care of those with terminal illness and those experiencing the process of grief, and are offered on a national basis.

Undertaking LA
More than just a progressive funeral home, Undertaking LA may be seen as a model for the future of funeral and cremation service, with a mission to allow families to reclaim rightful control of the dying process and care of the dead body. It was founded by the innovative, entertaining, and slightly subversive Caitlin Doughty, star of the Ask A Mortician video series and author of the bestseller, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.

Association for Death Education and Counseling
The Association for Death Education and Counseling®, The Thanatology Association®, is one of the oldest interdisciplinary organizations in the field of dying, death and bereavement. Its nearly 2,000 members include a wide array of psychologists, counselors, social workers, educators, researchers, hospice personnel, clergy, and volunteers.

Fédération Internationale des Associations de Thanatologues (FIAT) – International Federation of Thanatologists Associations (IFTA) was founded in 1970 to promote preservation care through thanatological / embalming practices. In 1988 FIAT-IFTA was transformed into a World Wide Federation of Funeral Services.

UNOS – The United Network for Organ Sharing
UNOS is the non-profit organization that manages the nation’s organ transplant system. They bring together hundreds of transplant and organ procurement professionals and thousands of volunteers to make life-saving organ transplants possible each day. Their Web site provides resources and information for patients, professionals, and volunteers.

Virginia Organ Donor Organizations

List of U.S. Organ Procurement Organizations
If you want to give the gift of life and become an organ, eye and/or tissue donor, you should 1) Register with your state donor registry, if available (follow the link above); 2) Designate your decision on your driver’s license; and 3) Talk to your family or other survivors, so they will be able to confirm your decision and give consent if needed at the time of death. You can learn more at

Virginia State Anatomical Program: Donating Your Body to Science
Virginia is somewhat unique in that the state has complete responsibility for whole body donations and the anatomical program is the only entity authorized to receive donations of human bodies for scientific study. If you wish to donate your body “to science” in the event you die in Virginia, use the forms at the above link. Please note that body donation is never guaranteed so you should always have a Plan B in case the donation cannot occur when you die.

List of U.S. Body Donation Programs
The University of Florida School of Medicine maintains a comprehensive list of whole body donation programs. It is possible your state may have other programs available so please use the list linked above as a starting point, but you may want to do additional searches for your area to find other options. Distance can be a limitation for medical and other organizations that accept cadavers, so it is important to find a recipient organization as close as possible.

Private Organizations That Facilitate Body Donation

These organizations might be able to help you with the body donation process, depending on where you live. Both Web sites contain information you may find useful.

The (Uniform) Anatomical Gift Act
The Anatomical Gift Act is the federal law that governs organ donations for the purpose of transplantation, and making anatomical gifts of one’s body to be dissected in the study of medicine. The law prescribes the forms by which such gifts can be made. It also provides that in the absence of such a document, a surviving spouse, or if there is no spouse, a list of specific relatives in order of preference, can make the gift.