How to Donate to Science | OHSU Body Donation Program

Donate your body to science

Anatomy, the study of the structure of the human body, is one of the most important courses in the education of physicians, dentists, nurses, physical therapists and other allied health professionals.

In most of these fields, the study of anatomy comes first in the curriculum and serves as the foundation for other courses. Often after finishing their basic anatomy course, students take special or advanced anatomy studies. In addition, physicians in residency training and those in practice often pursue special courses in anatomy.

Due to the rate at which medical science is advancing, it is increasingly necessary for physicians and other biomedical scientists to conduct special anatomical studies and research. Anatomical bequests are greatly appreciated as each contributes directly to new understandings. The support from the general public, medical, dental, legal and mortuary science professions is appreciated.

The indispensable contribution that body donors have made is fully recognized. The teaching laboratories are situated in a restricted area and only medical, dental, allied health students, faculty and staff are authorized to use the facility.

Download our consent and enrollment form

For legal details, please see the Oregon Anatomical Gift Act.

Federal law prohibits the buying and selling of tissue or bodies donated for transplant, research or medical education.

All donors are handled with the greatest respect, in accordance with the highest ethical standards and in full compliance with federal and state laws and regulations, including the Oregon Anatomical Gifts Act. Embalming and storage areas are restricted to authorized personnel only.

It is always advisable for the next of kin or responsible member of your family to know of your bequest, so that it may be carried out at the time of death.

Download our consent and enrollment form

If the death occurred outside of Benton, Clackamas, Columbia, Hood River, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Washington, Yamhill, Clark, Cowlitz, Klickitat, or Skamania county there will be a variable transportation fee for the service. To find out specifically what fee is applicable to your situation, call our office at 503-494-8302, as transportation is charged by county.

If death occurs at a considerable distance from OHSU, transportation costs, legal issues and potential deterioration of the deceased may put a time constraint on the delivery and acceptance of the donor to the University. 

Explore other anatomical donation programs in the United States

If a donor has an existing pre-arrangement with a funeral home, please contact that funeral home and use their professional services for assistance into the body donation program.

If we are unable to accept a donor into our program, you will need to contact your local funeral home for further assistance.

Changing your mind about donation

The Body Donation enrollment form is a legal document, but it may be amended or cancelled by the donor at any time by a phone call or letter to the Body Donation Program requesting that the form be removed from the donor files and destroyed.

OHSU's Body Donation Program must wait until notification of death before a medical assessment is performed, to determine whether the decedent can be accepted into the program.

This procedure usually occurs over the phone with a nurse, hospice worker or caregiver and takes about 10 minutes.

Staff will arrange transportation from the place of death to OHSU for accepted donors. The transportation team will assist in the completion and filing of the death certificate in the week following the death.

At the time of death, please call the Body Donation Program at 503-494-8302.

Conditions for ineligibility

Acceptability for whole body donation can only be determined at the time of death after a medical assessment is completed. An alternate plan should be in place with a funeral home in the event that a body donation is not accepted.

Note that there is no upper age limit for whole-body donation.

The most common conditions for ineligibility include, but are not limited to:

  • An unhealthy body mass index (below 100 lbs. or above 200 lbs.)
  • Extensive trauma, including recent extensive unhealed surgeries or autopsy
  • Signs of decomposition
  • History of communicable disease, such as Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, hepatitis, HIV or tuberculosis

Whole-body vs. organ donation

A driver's license may be coded with a "D" for donor, but this designation only qualifies someone for tissue and organ donation. Eligibility for the Body Donation Program requires a separate registration form to be completed by the potential donor, the donor's next of kin or authorized representative.

Donation to the whole-body program after any organ, eye or tissue donation will be determined on a case-by-case basis at the time of death.

Most donors will be with our program for 2-3 years before they undergo final disposition in accordance to what was selected on their consent form.

There is an indefinite option for use. Indefinite donors choose to donate their body without any time restriction. Indefinite donors may be used for educational or research purposes outside of the three year range. The remains of indefinite donors will not be returned to the next of kin or authorized agent. All indefinite donors will be cremated followed by burial at sea.

Donate finances to sustain our work

Funding for the OHSU Body Donation Program has always relied on the generous financial, in-kind and volunteer support of individuals and organizations.

There are the extraordinary whole body donors and their families. The estate of the deceased pays all funeral home costs. Oregon does not provide funds for the initial preparation and transportation of donated remains from the funeral home to the Body Donation Program. The estate of the deceased assumes these costs as a contribution to the advancement of medical education and research.

OHSU provides internal organization and support and the entire Body Donation Program facility, including laboratory space, some equipment such as the freezer and crematory, and covers utility charges such as heating and cooling, lights, water, etc. The Program occasionally pays some administrative costs, but these are minimal.

All 36 of the statewide programs that use Body Donation Program cadavers pay a set procurement fee to cover the costs of staffing, embalming, storage and distribution, cremation and transportation to a final resting place as specified by the donor family.

The Body Donation Program staff travel around the state making presentations to various groups interested in whole body donation. Staff also facilitate OHSU education programs that support the study of science. High school students may tour the campus and view a human body that has been prepared for this purpose. Supervised second year medical students prepare the body and conduct the demonstration.

First year medical students write poems, thank you cards and letters to the donor families expressing appreciation for the opportunity to learn from their family member. These tokens are sent to the donor families by the Body Donation Program staff. In addition, each winter following the termination of the gross anatomy course, first year medical students organize and hold a memorial service for the entire first year class, the faculty, the administration and the donor families. The memorial service includes appropriate short stories, essays or poetry that they write themselves or selected readings and musical renditions. During the service, donor family members are invited to talk extemporaneously about their deceased family member. The appreciation shown by the OHSU medical students has helped to increase body donations in recent years as well as monetary donations to the Body Donation Program.

Generous individuals make financial donations every year. The reasons given for financial donations include having no family, in honor of a recently deceased loved one, to support a program of which they are members (a whole body donor), and to advance medical science and education. Please consider a financial donation today.

To make a financial donation, you can donate online or send a check payable to the OHSU Foundation, in the note or memo line write: Anatomical Procurement Account and mail to:

OHSU Foundation
1121 S.W. Salmon Street, Suite 200
Portland, OR 97205-2021