“It has given our whole family, and especially my mother, tremendous comfort that Wes wanted to donate his body to science.”

Mrs. D, Texas

Body donation as an accepted public concept is relatively new. In 1967, the federal Uniform Anatomic Gift Act was passed and since that time, has been ratified by all 50 states. This Act governs the practice, expectations and penalties associated with organ transplantation and whole body donation. In 1976, the Oregon Donor Program (now known as Donate Life Northwest) was established as the parent organization to oversee tissue, organ and whole body donation in the state of Oregon. The OHSU Body Donation Program is a founding member of this parent organization.

Every year between 150 and 250 altruistic citizens of Oregon and the greater Pacific Northwest donate their bodies to the OHSU Body Donation Program. In compliance with federal and state law, the donors and their families do not receive monetary compensation for their gift. The average donor profile is 72 years of age and includes roughly equal numbers of women and men.

The majority of the donations are assigned for educational purposes, but some play an important role in the progress of biomedical research or surgical simulation. 

Many more students of anatomy enjoy the privilege of human dissection than in the past. Among the programs that are gifted by the use of donor materials include students of medicine, dentistry, nursing, physician assistant, naturopathic medicine, chiropractic medicine, physical and occupational therapy and radiation therapy.

Once entered into our program, donors are embalmed or frozen, stored, distributed, tracked, and retrieved if assigned to a non-OHSU academic institution. Studies are usually completed within two years. After that time, the process of cremation and return of the cremains (cremated remains) to the donor family is undertaken.