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Anatomical Donation Program

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If you're interested in donating your body for study at the UNM School of Medicine, fill out and print the Consent and Supplementary Information forms [PDF]. Call the Body Donation Program at 505-272-5555 for more information.

Anatomical Donation Program
MSC09 5117
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131

"Hic locus est ubi mors gaudet succurrere vitae"
"This is the place where death delights in helping life."

Donate your body to medical science at The University of New Mexico School of Medicine Anatomical Donation Program. As a part of their education at the UNM School of Medicine, medical students dissect a body in order to better understand human anatomy.

A Precious Gift

Your body holds the answers to the questions that future medical professionals can only gain from working on a real body. Knowledge of human anatomy obtained through dissection is an indispensable part of the education of health care professionals, and the experience is an invaluable tool for students, physicians and researchers.

Before committing to making the donation, discuss your decision with your family, physician, attorney and/or clergyman. It's crucial to engage in a serious discourse because a deceased person's wishes may not be executed in a timely manner, especially by survivors who aren't aware of their loved one's desire for anatomical donation.

Donating Your Body 

Can I change my mind?

Absolutely. Being a donor is completely voluntary. Just write or call to inform us of your desire to withdraw from the program and you will be removed from our database. Also, let your family know if you withdraw from the donor program.

Is there an age limitation for body donors?

No. Generally, our donors are 21 years old or older, and many donors are older than 100 years of age. The average age is around 82.

What is the process of donating my body after my death?

The person who notifies us of your death will have to let us know the cause and manner of death so that we can determine if the body is acceptable for the program's purposes. Then we will arrange to have the donor's body transported, under the authority of the UNM School of Medicine, to our facilities in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It's important that the body is embalmed as soon as possible, within 24 hours.

Can my family hold a funeral?

Yes. However, it will have to be held without the deceased loved one. The expenses of a memorial service must be paid by the survivors or by the donor's estate.

What costs are associated with my donation?

The UNM School of Medicine will pay for:

  • In-state transportation, though there may be restrictions.
  • Embalming and cremation expenses.
  • Removal fees if arranged or approved by the UNM School of Medicine or our designated agent. The donor's family or estate will be responsible for removal fees if a funeral home is called directly by the family or their designated agent.

How will the UNM School of Medicine use my body?

Bodies are used for anatomy instruction for students in the professional health care programs at UNM and for research directed toward the solution of problems or development of new medical or surgical procedures.

How long will my body remain at UNM?

The average stay is 18 to 24 months.

What is done with the donor's remains after you have finished your studies?

The remains are individually cremated and, depending on the donor's wishes, either returned to the family or scattered at Sunset Memorial Park in a space owned by UNM.

Can the medical school refuse to accept my body?

Yes. The UNM School of Medicine reserves the right to decline donation of any body. Although we appreciate every donation, in certain situations we may not be able to accept a donation. We suggest that everyone who registers as a donor also make and maintain alternative arrangements in the event that a donation is declined. There are a number of circumstances under which the Anatomical Donation Program may decline a donation, including the potential donor dying out-of-state. Other reasons include:

  • Safety for Students and Staff – Certain diseases and activities present unusual to extreme biohazardous risks. The donation program will not accept donors with the following diagnosis or history of:
    • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
    • Tuberculosis
    • AIDS caused by HIV
    • Viral hepatitis (B or C)
    • Viral encephalitis or spongiform encephalitis
    • Active (unresolved) venereal disease
    • Nontherapeutic IV drug use
    • Rabies
    • Death from or with a contagious disease, such as malaria, hantavirus, Ebola virus, etc.
    • * NOTE: The UNM School of Medicine performs serological testing on blood samples from all donors to screen for HIV and hepatitis. The results of these tests are kept confidential.
  • Body Suitability for Research and/or Educational Instruction – There are certain conditions that prevent the program from accepting some body donations, such as:
    • Post-mortem removal of organs and/or tissues, with the exception of cornea donation to the eye bank.
    • Autopsy, whether by family request or by authority of the Office of the Medical Investigator.
    • Wasting diseases resulting in dramatic loss of weight and body mass.
    • IV fluid retention causing excessive edema.
    • Obese or overweight bodies.
    • Death as a result of homicide, accident or suicide (these fall under OMI jurisdiction and must be autopsied).
    • Open wounds or recent surgeries.
  • Space or Funding Limitations – Although our need for donations is ongoing, the donation will be declined if the program runs out of storage space or funding.

Can I donate organs and/or tissues for transplantation to living recipients and donate the rest of my body to the medical school?

Eye donation is the only transplantable tissue program that is compatible with anatomical donation. Removal of organs and tissues after death renders the body unsuitable for educational purposes.

Donations of organs and tissues for transplantation are handled by organizations separate from the School of Medicine. We recognize the shortage of transplantable organs and tissues, and we encourage these donations. If you are interested in donating for transplantation purposes, you can contact the following organizations:

  • New Mexico Donors Services (organ and tissue donation)
    505-843-7672
  • New Mexico Lions Eye Bank (eye donation)
    505-266-3937 or 888-616-3937

Is it possible for my relatives and/or friends to donate in my memory to the anatomical donation program?

Yes. All anatomical program donations are deposited in a special account reserved for the upgrade and maintenance of the donor program's equipment, preparation area and laboratory facilities.

 

Support the program

Make a donation and include a note with the donor's name, next of kin's name and address, and your name and address. The information on the note will be used to send out thank you letters and an "In Memory Of ..." letter of recognition.