are there any halachik problems with donating the placenta after delivery for medical research?
1. Body parts from a dead body require burial and are prohibited to benefit from; body parts from a live body are permitted. Complete limbs, however, should be buried; one reason is to prevent priests from defiling to them. (Y.D. 349:1; Pischei Teshuva 362:1; Igros Moshe Y.D. III:141)
2. Nonetheless, body parts from a live person should be disposed of in a respectful manner. Medical research and training is considered a respectful purpose. (Tzitz Eliezer vol. 10, #25:8)
3. In the particular instance of the placenta, the Talmud Yerushalmi mentions the practice to bury it, “to serve as collateral for the earth,” cited by Mishna Berura (330:24). However, this does not seem to be an absolute halachic requirement, but rather a proper practice (Tzitz Eliezer vol. 10, #25:8), and the common practice nowadays is not to bury it. (Gesher Hachaim, vol. I, ch. 16, 3:3) Therefore, it is permitted to donate the placenta for medical research.
4. See also Lev Avraham, by Dr. A.S. Avraham, 36:9 and 42:16, and IRP Responsa #3950.
Rabbi Meir Orlian