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Anatomical Donations

ISU Panorama. Photo by Chuck Peterson.

As the state-designated institution for health professions education, Idaho State University provides numerous accredited programs in various disciplines. The Department of Biological Sciences sponsors the Anatomical Donation Program in order to provide excellent educational experiences and training for students in these programs. Their success depends on the selfless donations provided by caring individuals from the community and surrounding region.

The Most Precious Gift

The human body is the most precious source of knowledge in all of medical science. Amidst medicine's dazzling array of technologies, nothing equals the first-hand exploration of the human body in providing health-professions students with a foundation of experience and understanding that will serve them throughout their careers. The opportunity to discover human anatomy provides an appreciation of the form and function of the marvelous machine that is the human body. Anatomical donations are central to the core laboratory courses in the following academic areas:

Biological Sciences


Clinical Laboratory Sciences

Dental Hygiene

Idaho Dental Education Program


Occupational Therapy


Physical and Health Education

Physical Therapy



Radiographic Technology

Speech Pathology and Audiology

Who May Donate

Any person over the age of 18 may donate their body to the program. The next-of-kin of a recently deceased person may also make the donation. Generally, it is not possible to accept donations much beyond a 250-mile radius from Pocatello, which includes donations from the Treasure Valley -- Boise/Nampa.

THE ANATOMICAL DONATION PROGRAM RESERVES THE RIGHT TO DECLINE ANY DONATION THAT IT DEEMS UNSUITABLE. To provide for the possibility that the body cannot be accepted at the time of death, we urge prospective donors to prepare alternate arrangements and to clarify this fact with their families to avoid potential misunderstandings. Some circumstances under which a donation may be declined include:

  • The body has been autopsied
  • Organs (except the eyes) have been removed at the time of death
  • Excessive trauma by accident or invasive surgery
  • Extremely emaciated or extremely obese
  • Excessive edema at time of death
  • Presence of viral pathogens (e.g. AIDS, hepatitis, encephalitis, prion diseases) that would pose a potential health risk to staff and students
  • Excessive delays in notification or distance from the university
  • Patients who have dementia

How to Donate

To indicate your desire to donate your body, download and print the Anatomical Donation Forms. Once completed, signed, initialed, and witnessed, make several copies. Return a copy to the Department of Biological Sciences Office at the address below. A copy should be kept with your personal papers; another copy should be given to your next-of-kin, attorney, or physician. The information will be updated as needed. You will also receive a donor identification card, which can be carried on your person. We strongly recommend that you discuss your intention with your family so there will be no misunderstanding as to your wishes. In the event that an objection is raised by the family, we will not accept the donation.

Mail to: Idaho State University
            Anatomical Donation Program
            Department of Biological Sciences
            921 S. 8th Ave., Stop 8007
            Pocatello, ID 83209-8007

Procedures to Follow at the Time of Death

Upon death, immediately notify Wilks Funeral Home at 208-238-8000 to arrange for retrieval of donation. Suitability and acceptance of the donation will be determined at this time. If the body has been removed from the home or hospital, or taken to a funeral home, the family is responsible for those related costs. ISU will only cover expenses for the transportation and handling of the donation once possession is assumed. Under no circumstances is the body to be embalmed by a local funeral home. Standard embalming procedures render the body unsuitable for donation. Since it is necessary for the Program to receive the body as soon as possible after death (ideally within 8 hours), this precludes a viewing or memorial service with the body present.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long will the Donation Be Retained for Use?

Depending on the timing of the donation and the condition of the body, the donor will be retained up to four years.

What Becomes of the Remains?

At the conclusion of our studies, the body is cremated by Wilks Funeral Home. If the family so requests at the time of donation, the ashes may be returned to the family through Wilks Funeral Home. This should be clearly indicated on the donation forms and also confirmed with a representative from Wilks. The designee will be notified prior to the return of cremated remains, which will be enclosed in a temporary urn. The designee is responsible for shipping and handling costs (between $150 to $175) at that time. If not claimed within 90 days of notification, the remains will be disposed of in accordance with the laws of Idaho.

What if I die outside the state of Idaho?

The donor’s family would have to pay the cost of transporting the remains to Wilks Funeral Home. These transportation costs can be significant, and may not be feasible in a timely manner to ensure successful preparation and preservation of the body. Donating in the city or state in which death occurs is an alternative. A listing of whole-body donation programs in other states can be found here.

Why Should I Consider an Anatomical Donation?

Many people view the donation of their body to medical education as a way of continuing to serve the community and humanity even after their passing. Others see it as a way of relieving their surviving family members of the financial burden of funeral and burial costs. Whatever the personal motivation, each year a number of generous individuals bestow a gift on the students of Idaho State University. The benefits of their donation extend far beyond those select students, who have the privilege of intimately exploring the marvelous machine that is the human body. Through this experience and education, those students go on to become health professionals -- doctors, dentists, nurses, physical therapists, physician assistants, etc. They, in turn, will give of themselves to provide health care for countless others. Recognizing the selfless gift of anatomical donation makes them more committed to likewise make a meaningful and caring contribution to their communities.

What Assurances do Families Have Regarding the Treatment of the Remains?

The sacrifice of family members, their willingness to share their loved ones with others at a time of separation and loss, is keenly felt and gratefully acknowledged by the staff and students. The anatomy suite is a safe and secure environment. Students behave professionally, discreetly, respectfully and gently towards the donors with whom they share this singular experience.

Can I Make a Monetary Donation to the Program?

Yes, in lieu of funeral and burial costs, donors may wish to make a monetary donation. The Anatomical Donation Program operates through Idaho State University. Therefore, your contribution supports Idaho’s health professions education and allows for enhancements of the anatomical program. Checks should be made payable to ISU Foundation and mailed to Idaho State University Foundation, 921 S. 8th Ave, Stop 8050, Pocatello, ID 83209-8050, or make a donation online at https://my.isu.edu/give.


For More Information

Anatomical Donation Program 
Department of Biological Sciences 
Idaho State University 
Pocatello, ID 83209-8007 

Attn: Jackie Coffin
(208) 282-4150