Body Donation Program

Support medical research and education through anatomical donation—a gift of knowledge to the next generation of providers.

Anatomical dissection is a critical part of medical student education. Body donations support scientific research and the development of new and improved procedures at the UNM School of Medicine. 

If you are interested in donating your body to science, discuss anatomical donation with your family, doctor, attorney and/or clergyman. These conversations are important to ensure your wishes will be fulfilled.

How to Donate

All body donations are treated with the utmost care and respect. To begin the process, please complete the Consent and Supplementary Information forms [PDF]. The consent and supplementary information forms must both be filled out. Your signature on the consent form must be verified by a notary public.

Keep a copy for your records and then mail the originals to:

UNM Anatomical Donations Program
Department of Cell Biology and Physiology
MSC09 5117
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131

You may also call the Anatomical Donation Program at 505-272-5555.

When we receive your completed form, you will be entered into our donor database and sent a donor card.
Please note that when we are under financial constraints, we will only accept donors within a 60-mile radius of Albuquerque unless the donor’s family is willing to assume the transportation charges. Please contact our office at 505-272-5555 for more information.

Other Ways to Give

Aside from anatomical donation, you can support the UNM School of Medicine in many other ways. See a full list of ways to give.

You can also give a gift in memory of an anatomical donor. Include a note with the donor’s name, next of kin’s name and address and your name and address. We will use this information send out thank you letters and an “In Memory Of…” letter of recognition.

Donation FAQs 

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

Yes. However, the deceased loved one's body will not be present. Survivors or the donor's estate must pay for memorial service expenses. 

No. Many donors are older than 100. Generally, donors are 21 or older, with an average age around 82. 

The person who notifies us of your death will disclose the cause and manner of death so we can determine whether the body is acceptable for the program. 

We will arrange to have your body transported under the authority of the UNM School of Medicine to our facilities in Albuquerque. It is important that the body is embalmed as soon as possible, within 24 hours.

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

Please note: The donor's family or estate will be responsible for removal fees if the family or their designated agent calls a funeral home directly.

The average stay is 18-24 months. After that, remains are individually cremated and either returned to the family or scattered at Sunset Memorial Park in a spaced owned by UNM.

Bodies are used for anatomy instruction for students in the professional health care programs at UNM. We also use donated bodies for research to solve problems or develop new medical or surgical procedures.

Yes. The UNM School of Medicine reserves the right to decline a donation. Although we appreciate every gift, in certain situations, we may not be able to accept a donation.

Safety Risks for Students and Staff

Certain diseases and activities present unusual to extreme biohazardous risks. The donation program will not accept donors with the following diagnoses or history of:

  • Active (unresolved) venereal disease 
  • AIDS caused by HIV
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  • Death from or with a contagious disease, such as malaria, hantavirus, Ebola virus, etc.
  • Nontherapeutic IV drug use
  • Rabies
  • Tuberculosis
  • Viral encephalitis or spongiform encephalitis
  • Viral hepatitis (B or C)

Body is not Suitable for Research and/or Educational Instruction.

Certain conditions may prevent the program from accepting some body donations, such as:

  • Autopsy, whether by family request or by authority of the Office of the Medical Investigator
  • Death from homicide, accident or suicide (these fall under OMI jurisdiction and must be autopsied)
  • IV fluid retention causing excessive edema
  • Obese or overweight bodies
  • Open wounds or recent surgeries
  • Post-mortem removal of organs and/or tissues, except cornea donation to the eye bank
  • Wasting diseases resulting in dramatic loss of weight and body mass

Storage Space or Funding Limitations.

The Donor Dies Outside New Mexico.

We suggest that all registered donors make and maintain alternative arrangements in case a donation is declined. 

* 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. 

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:

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

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.