Body Donor Program

Home » Body Donor Program

Des Moines University Medicine and Health Sciences 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 patients 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 Problem

The ability of the university to provide highly trained physicians and other health care professionals depends upon continued public support of the Body Donor Program. In order to educate present and future students, the University must rely on donated bodies to fulfill the needs for medical education.

The Solution

A special law permitting persons to 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.

“These individuals have been pivotal to the enhancement of our education, and we feel incredibly humbled that they selflessly taught us the beginnings of our healthcare careers.”

Krysta Schroeder, D.P.M. Class of 2017 Body Donor Program

Additional Information

If you decide to donate your body to medical education, please be aware of the following information:

Funeral Home

A funeral home must be involved during the donation process. They will help prepare the necessary documents and deliver the body to the university at the time of death. If desired, survivors may hold a viewing or a funeral service before the body is delivered to the university. Any expenses incurred with the funeral home will be the responsibility of the family.


If the body can be delivered within eight hours from 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 cost of embalming performed by a funeral home will be the responsibility of the donor’s family.


The Uniform Anatomical Gift Law prohibits medical schools from purchasing human remains. 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 once a death certificate is received from the funeral home. The university reserves the right to change the fee paid to the funeral homes at any time and without notification.

Organ Donation

If a donor wishes to donate eyes or skin prior to body donation, the university will contact the Iowa Donor Network or Iowa Lion’s Eye Bank to coordinate such wish. The body donor program must be aware of the donor’s wishes immediately following the death.

Refusal of Donation

Most bodies are acceptable for the Body Donor Program. However, the donation may not be accepted if any of the following conditions are present: organs or parts removed for transplantation, autopsy performed, decomposition, homicide, drowning, burning, vehicular accident, suicide, trauma, jaundice, edematous, obesity, emaciation, body contractures, or the presence of an infectious or contagious disease. At the time of death, the donor must meet the height to weight ratio and be cleared of any infectious diseases. In all cases, the university reserves the right to determine acceptability of a potential donation.

Anatomical Studies

Studies of anatomical donors are for educational and research purposes only. No legal findings will be determined nor will a report be given upon completion of the study. Generally, most studies are concluded within two years.

Treatment of Bodies

All students fully appreciate that they are the principal beneficiaries of the generosity of those who donate. During medical studies, donated bodies are treated with utmost respect. Students are closely supervised by faculty members. An Anatomical Coordinator cares for the donor during the duration of the scientific study.

Disposition of Bodies

The Body Donor Program will send a correspondence to the next-of-kin regarding the disposition of the remains. If cremation is desired, the process will commence following the anatomical studies at the expense of the university. If a request for return of the cremated remains has not been made, the remains will be interred by the university following 60 days from the notification of the next-of-kin. If cremation is not desired, the body can be returned to a funeral home for burial. Please contact the Body Donor Program for special instructions if the remains are not to be cremated. The expense for returning uncremated remains and burial, cremated or uncremated, will be the responsibility of the family.


An nondenominational remembrance service is held each spring for the donor’s family. The expense for this burial and memorial service is borne by the university. A bronze plaque 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.”

Scroll to Top