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Willed Body Program

Helping to educate tomorrow’s health care providers

The donation of one’s body after death is a thoughtful and unique contribution to the education of future health care providers – a generous gift for which our students and faculty are deeply grateful.

Anatomy is one of the most important courses in the health sciences, serving as a foundation for other disciplines such as physiology, pathology, neurology, and surgery. Body donation for anatomical study is important for maintaining our program’s teaching activities and enhancing our university’s commitment to teaching excellence. Dignity and respect for donated bodies is maintained at all times.

Program that educates thousands

The Willed Body Program at Washington State University has been in operation since 1972. Hundreds of students each year study in our Human Anatomy Laboratory. These students represent a broad range of medical and allied health fields, including first-year medical students, pre-medical, pre-dental, pre-physical therapy, pharmacy, nursing, and nutrition students. There are undoubtedly thousands of former WSU anatomy students working as health care providers in the Pacific Northwest.

Contact us

College of Medicine
Academic Center 411A
P.O. Box 1495
Washington State University
Spokane, WA 99210-1495

509-368-6600

David Conley, PhD
Willed Body Program Director
wsu.willedbody@wsu.edu

View a printable brochure (pdf)

How to become a donor

Forms to complete

4 forms come in the donation paperwork packet:

  1. Anatomical Gift Form
    This form gives consent for whole body donation to the WSU Willed Body Program. The form requires signatures from the donor and two witnesses.
  2. Personal and Contact Information Form
    This form provides our program with contact information for you and your next of kin.
  3. Medical History Form
    Provide your health history information including current health problems, past health issues and any surgeries you have had
  4. Final Interment Form
    Select one of two options for the final disposition of the donor’s cremated remains after our anatomical studies are completed.

To request printed copies of the necessary forms, call or write:

Willed Body Program
College of Medical Sciences
Washington State University
P.O. Box 1495
Spokane, WA. 99210-1495

509-368-6600
wsu.willedbody@wsu.edu

Delivering your forms

Please send the original completed forms to our office and make copies for yourself, your family, your physician and others who need to be informed about your final arrangements. After we receive your completed paperwork we will send you an identification card to be carried in your wallet or purse.

Program details

Who can donate

Any person 18 years of age or older who is competent to make end of life decisions can enroll in the program. There is no upper age limit.

How a body is used

Donated bodies are used in our program for teaching purposes in training medical and health sciences students, and to a minor extent in educational research. Most donated bodies are used for anatomical study at Washington State University. Some bodies are loaned to other area colleges and universities to support medical and allied health education, but are returned to our program after use.

Ethical standards in the use of a body

The body is always treated with dignity and respect. Only authorized students and staff have access to the body and they are trained and expected to follow the highest standards of professionalism.

After studies are completed

Our studies usually are completed in one to four years. After that time, the next of kin are notified and the body is cremated. Cremation is the only option for disposition of donated bodies. The program pays for cremation and all bodies are cremated individually. A final interment form is included with the original donation paperwork.

There are two options for final disposition arrangements:

  • Burial of cremated remains in the Medical Sciences Memorial Plot at Greenwood Cemetery in Palouse, Washington.
  • Return of the cremated remains to the residence of the legal next of kin.

Please indicate your wishes on the final interment form when you return your paperwork and advise your next of kin of your wishes. You or your next of kin may change the arrangements by contacting our office in writing.

Bodies are cremated in June. There is no cost to the family for burial in the Greenwood Cemetery in Palouse or return of the cremated remains. If interment in Greenwood Cemetery is requested, burial takes place in September of each year. The WSU Willed Body Program conducts a memorial service at this time. Family and friends are welcome to attend. If the family wishes to have the name of the donor placed on a memorial stone at the cemetery, the family must pay this cost. Inquiries about the service or memorial stones can be directed to Mark Kramer, Kramer Funeral Home, at 509-878-1221.

Limitations

Funeral services

Since it is necessary to obtain the body as soon as possible after death, this precludes a funeral service with your body present. Of course, the family may still arrange a memorial service.

Organ donation

If you donate organs at the time of death, you cannot also donate your body—unless only corneas are donated. Our program is a whole body program. You may be registered with our program and an organ donation program simultaneously. Our paperwork is not binding and does not take precedence over organ donation. However, if you or your next of kin choose to donate your organs (other than corneas) upon your death, then whole body donation is not possible, and we will decline your donation.

Embalming a donated body

You cannot select a local funeral home to embalm your body. Special procedures are used that are different from normal embalming. The Willed Body Program works with a funeral home in our area to provide this service.

Report of medical findings

Your family cannot receive a report of medical findings or disease conditions. Our program does not provide any reports concerning the cause of death or the discovery of any medical conditions.

Costs

Routine costs covered

The Willed Body program pays for the routine costs associated with donating a body, which are substantial. These include embalming, cremation and burial in our program’s cemetery plot in Palouse, Washington, or return of the cremated remains to the legal next of kin. We also pay for transportation of the body if you live in the Pullman/Moscow or Clarkston/Lewiston areas of Washington or Idaho.

Costs not covered

The funeral directors who prepare the donated bodies for our program are located in rural southeast Washington. Their availability to travel to areas outside our region depends on the time a request occurs and the workload in their local funeral business. Therefore, if you live outside the immediate areas of Moscow/Pullman or Lewiston/Clarkston, it may be necessary to have a funeral home or transportation service in your area make the first response when death occurs.

Our Program cannot cover the costs of services provided by a funeral home or transport service. These services may include:

  • Transportation of the body to a funeral home at the time of death (first response)
  • Storage and refrigeration at the funeral home
  • Preparation of the death certificate or other paperwork by the funeral home
  • Transportation of the body from the donor’s home, a funeral home, hospital, or nursing home, to our program, if it is provided by someone other than our funeral directors.

Your family, estate, or funeral insurance would need to assume the above costs, as a contribution to medical and health care education.

We recommend that you contact a funeral home in your area to ask about such costs so that there are no surprises at the time of death if your body is accepted for donation. If you decide to submit donation paperwork to our program, we advise you to give a copy of the paperwork to the funeral home to inform them of your wishes to donate should your body be accepted at the time of death.

Payment for donation

You or your survivors will not be paid for your donation. The sale of bodies or body parts is prohibited by law. Bequeathal of a body is a selfless gift made in the spirit of advancing science and learning. Washington State University does not profit from the use of donated bodies.

When donation occurs

Contacting the program after your death

Your next of kin or health care provider should contact the WSU Willed Body Program at 509-368-6600, as soon as possible within 24 hours of your death. If it is after hours, they will be directed to another number. The caller will be asked about the cause of death and the condition of the body and a decision will then be made to accept or decline the donation.

Accepting a body without pre-registration

We prefer to have a donor’s paperwork on file before accepting a donation, because it simplifies the procedures involved at the time of death. However, for those not pre-registered, we may accept donations made at the time of death by someone who is legally authorized and of legal age to do so.

Not all donations are accepted

Filing of the paperwork with our Program does not guarantee acceptance. The decision to accept or decline a body can only be made at the time death since the cause of death or condition of the body may render the body unsuitable for use by our Program. Budget limitations and lack of space in our Program may also restrict our ability to accept donations. These situations are rare, but they do occur. We highly recommend that you and your next-of-kin have an alternate plan in place with a funeral home should our Program not be able to accept your donation at the time of death.

Conditions that prevent acceptance

The acceptance of a body donation is made on a case-by-case basis at the time of death and the program reserves the right to refuse a donation. Reasons why the donation may be declined include, but are not limited to:

  • Autopsy of the body
  • Severe injury or trauma, such as drowning, burns or motor vehicle accident
  • Contagious diseases, such as hepatitis, TB, active herpes, HIV and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  • Jaundice
  • Open wounds and skin ulcerations, including recent major surgeries
  • Decomposition of the body — embalming or refrigeration is necessary soon after death
  • Previous embalming (embalming for anatomical study requires special techniques)
  • Advanced cancers that distort the anatomy (examples: pancreatic and ovarian cancers)
  • Excessive obesity or emaciation (Body Mass Index above 35 or below 18)
  • Organ donation, except for corneas
  • Ruptured aneurysm (e.g., aorta, brain)
  • Budget or space restrictions in our program
  • Dissent by family members over the donation
Transport to the Willed Body Program

If the body is within the Moscow/Pullman or Lewiston/Clarkston areas, our funeral directors will normally make the first response at the time of death and transport the body directly to their embalming facility.

If the body is outside the Moscow/Pullman or Lewiston/Clarkston areas, it is often necessary to have a local funeral home or transportation service make the first response at the time of death. In these circumstances, depending on where the death occurs, the body is stored at the local funeral home (in which case transportation to Pullman occurs later) or transported directly to our funeral directors in Palouse, Washington. In either case, our Program cannot pay for these costs, [ANCHOR TO “COSTS NOT COVERED” SECTION ABOVE] and they are the responsibility of the family or estate.

Residents of western Washington, southern Idaho, or eastern Oregon

Since donations offered from these locations require long distance transportation, arrangements would need to be made with a local funeral home in your area, and your next of kin or estate would be responsible for the costs involved with removal, storage and transportation of the body to our funeral directors.

In the event of death in a state outside the Northwest or in another country

Your next of kin should contact a donation program in that state or country.

If you change your mind about donation

The donation forms are not binding documents, only statements of your wishes after death. You may revoke or revise the forms at any time by contacting our office in writing.