Body Donor Program

Des Moines University relies on the voluntary donation of bodies for anatomical and surgical study by its students in medical and allied health sciences programs.

The ability of health professionals to care for the human body depends on a thorough understanding of human organs. Because no textbook or model can substitute for the human body in the study of medicine, donated bodies are indispensable for teaching anatomical concepts to future physicians and health professionals.

The solution

A special law permitting persons to will or deed their bodies for scientific purposes was enacted by the Iowa Legislature in 1953, thereby establishing a means for Iowans to make this ultimate gift. Those who donate their bodies for medical education have the satisfaction of knowing they are making an indispensable contribution to the basic knowledge upon which medical education depends. The donors realize even that in death, they can continue to serve the living. Body donation is, indeed, the ultimate gift of human concern.

If you decide to contribute your body to science, please be aware of the following information.


The body must be delivered to the University by a funeral home. If the body can be delivered within eight hours of the time of death, the University will proceed with the embalming procedure. However, if the body cannot be delivered within eight hours of death, we request that the funeral home proceed with arterial embalming only.


The Uniform Anatomical Gift Law prohibits medical schools from purchasing human bodies. The University will reimburse funeral homes for transportation in the amount of $75 plus $0.45 per mile, up to a maximum total of $300. The University reserves the right to change the fee paid to funeral homes at any time and without notification.

Refusal of donation

Most bodies are acceptable for the Body Donor Program. However, the donation may be declined if tissues have been destroyed, if the body has been autopsied or if the cause of death was from communicable/infectious agents. A body may also be declined if the donor’s body weight is greater than the average for his/her height, or if the donor was HIV positive.

In all cases, the University reserves the right to determine acceptability of a potential donation.

Organ donation

Eyes can be donated to the Iowa Lions Eye Bank in Iowa City. Participation in other organ donor programs may make the body unsuitable for further medical study. Please check with the Director of the Body Donor Program at the University if you have questions about organ donation.

Treatment of bodies

During medical studies, donated bodies are treated with utmost respect. Students are closely supervised by faculty members. All students fully appreciate that they are the principal beneficiaries of the generosity of those who donate their bodies. The University employs a full-time mortician who maintains the bodies during the period of scientific study.

Disposition of bodies

After anatomical studies are completed, the remains are cremated, at the expense of the University. If requested on the deed form, the University will return the cremains to the surviving relatives for disposition. If cremation is not desired, the body can be returned to a funeral home for burial. Please call the Director of the Body Donor program at the University for special instructions if the remains are not to be cremated. The expense for returning uncremated remains and burial of returned remains, cremated or uncremated, will be the responsibility of the family.


If a request for private burial has not been made, the cremains will be interred by the University. An interdenominational Memorial Service is held each spring for relatives. The expense for this burial and Memorial Service is borne by the University. A granite tombstone or plaque, provided by the University, marks the burial site and is inscribed, “Here lie the remains of those individuals who bequeathed their bodies to the betterment of science and mankind.”

Making a donation

If you have decided to donate your body to the University for scientific study, simply complete the body donor form. The deed forms must be completed in the presence of two witnesses and each witness must also sign the forms. In the spaces provided, indicate your preference for a funeral home and whether you wish to have remains returned to your next of kin cremated or not cremated. You may download a donation form, fill out, sign and send the donor form to the University at the following address:

Body Donor Program
Des Moines University
Osteopathic Medical Center
3200 Grand Avenue
Des Moines, Iowa 50312

If you have questions please call 515-271-1481.

Download the body donor form