WWAMI Pullman Medical Education Program

Willed Body Program

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why should I consider body donation?
  2. Who can donate their body to the Willed Body Program?
  3. How do I enroll in the Program to become a donor?
  4. Does the Program guarantee that my body will be accepted?
  5. What conditions or situations would prevent the Program from accepting my body?
  6. May I donate organs at the time of death and still be able to donate my body?
  7. Will I or my survivors be paid for my donation?
  8. Are there any costs involved in donating my body?
  9. How is the Program contacted after my death?
  10. How is my body transported to the Willed Body Program?
  11. What if I live in Western Washington, Southern Idaho, or Eastern Oregon?
  12. What if I die in another state (other than Idaho) or country?
  13. Will the Program accept a body without the donor being pre-registered?
  14. May I still have a funeral?
  15. How will my body be used?
  16. Can I select a local funeral home to embalm my body?
  17. Are there ethical standards in the use of my body in your Program?
  18. What happens to my body after your studies are completed?
  19. What if I change my mind about donation?
  20. Would it be possible for my family to receive a report of medical findings or disease conditions?


Why should I consider body donation?

Donation of one's body for the purpose of medical education is a noble, thoughtful, and generous gift. Anatomy is one of the most important foundational subjects for students aspiring to become physicians, dentists, and allied health professionals, and study of the human body provides the basis for understanding structure, function, and disease. Nothing can surpass the experience of learning anatomy from real human bodies. Body donation is a perpetual gift because students who train at WSU will carry their knowledge to all parts of the world and pass the knowledge on to others who learn from them. Donations made to the Willed Body Program have provided our students with this unique and priceless learning experience since 1972.
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Who can donate their body to the Willed Body Program?

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.
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How do I enroll in the Program to become a donor?

To request the necessary forms, call or write:
Willed Body Program
WWAMI Medical Education Program
Box 643510
Washington State University
Pullman, WA. 99164-3510
(509) 335-2602

The forms may also be downloaded from our web site.
Three forms come in the donation paperwork packet:
(1) An anatomical gift form. Complete the information and have two people of legal age witness your signature.
(2) A donor history form. Complete the information in as much detail as possible. Our funeral directors require this information in order to complete a death certificate. Our program needs the information to effectively carry out our anatomical studies.
(3) A final interment form. We need this information to document your wishes for disposition of cremated remains after our anatomical studies have been completed.

Please send the original completed forms to our office and make copies for yourself 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.
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Does the Program guarantee that my body will be accepted?

No. 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.
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What conditions or situations would prevent the Program from accepting my body?

The acceptance of a body donation is made on a case-by-case basis at the time of death. The Willed Body Program reserves the right to decline a donation depending upon certain legal and medical restrictions and the needs of the program. It is important to understand that having paperwork on file with our Program does not guarantee acceptance of your body. To prevent misunderstandings and disappointment after your death, we urge you to have alternative arrangements in place and clearly explained to your family in the event that your donation is declined by the program.

Reasons why the donation may be declined at the time of death include, but are not limited to:

  • Decomposition of the body due to time or place of death. The body must be embalmed or refrigerated soon after death.
  • Accidental death, suicide, or sudden death of someone not under a physician's care usually comes under the jurisdiction of a coroner or medical examiner. If an autopsy is performed, the donation is not acceptable.
  • Severe trauma such as drowning, homicide, or motor vehicle accident.
  • Contagious diseases such as hepatitis, tuberculosis, active herpes, and HIV, and prion diseases of the central nervous system (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease).
  • Open wounds and skin ulcerations, including recent major surgeries and significant bedsores.
  • Previous embalming (embalming for anatomical study requires special techniques).
  • Certain types of cancer that spread to distant sites (metastasize) or tumors that are large enough to distort the anatomy. Pancreatic, stomach, liver, and ovarian cancers are examples.
  • Excessive obesity or emaciation (Body Mass Index above 35 or below 18), or contracture of limbs.
  • Organ donation, except for corneas.
  • Ruptured aneurysm (e.g. aorta, brain, etc).
  • Dispute or dissension by family members concerning the donation.
  • Death occurring in another state or distant location.

Although rare, budgetary or space restrictions in our donation program may restrict our ability to accept donations. Lack of funding or space in our facility could be reasons that a donation is declined.
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May I donate organs at the time of death and still be able to donate my body?

No, unless only corneas are donated. Our Program is a whole body program, created for the purpose of medical education. 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 survivors choose to donate your organs (other than corneas) upon your death, then whole body donation is not possible, and we will decline your donation.
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Will I or my survivors be paid for my donation?

No. State laws prohibit the sale of bodies or body parts. Bequeathal of a body is a unique and thoughtful gesture made in the spirit of advancing science and learning.
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Are there any costs involved in donating my body?

Our Program pays for the routine costs associated with donating a body: embalming, cremation, burial in our Program’s cemetery plot in Palouse, Washington (should you wish), or return of the cremated remains to a funeral home or cemetery of your choice. We also pay for transportation of the body if you live in the Pullman/Moscow or Clarkston/Lewiston areas of Washington or Idaho.

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. Examples of such areas include (but are not limited to) Spokane, Chewelah, Colville, Newport, Othello, Moses Lake, Yakima, Ephrata, Tri-Cities (Richland, Pasco, and Kennewick), Walla Walla, Coeur d’ Alene, Sandpoint, Bonners Ferry, Kellogg, Grangeville, McCall, and Boise.

Our Program cannot cover the costs of services provided by a local funeral home or transport service in your area, if necessary. These may include:

  1. Transportation of the body to a funeral home in your area at the time of death (first response).
  2. Storage and refrigeration at the funeral home.
  3. Preparation of the death certificate or other paperwork by the funeral home.
  4. 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 alert them of your wishes to donate should your body be acceptable at the time of death.
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How is the Program contacted after my death?

Your next of kin or healthcare provider should contact the WWAMI office, at 509-335-2602, 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.
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How is my body transported 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 professional 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, and they would be the responsibility of the family or estate (see Are there any costs in donating my body?).
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What if I live in Western Washington, Southern Idaho, or Eastern Oregon?

We advise donors that live in these areas to make arrangements with medical or allied health schools closer to their home. Since the body needs to be embalmed as soon as possible after death, we may not be able to accept bodies from areas where the body would need to be transported long distance. If an individual does wish to donate from these regions, arrangements would need to be made with a local funeral home in your area, and your survivors or estate would be responsible for the costs involved with removal, storage and transportation of the body to our funeral directors.
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What if I die in another state (other than Idaho) or country?

Your survivors should contact a donation program in that state or country. Because of the time and cost involved in arranging for transportation, we cannot accept such donations.
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Will the Program accept a body without the donor being pre-registered?

We prefer to have the necessary paperwork on file before accepting a body 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 a next-of-kin who is legally authorized and of legal age.
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May I still have a funeral?

Since it is necessary to obtain the body as soon as possible after death, this normally precludes a funeral service with your body present. Of course, the family may still arrange a memorial service.
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How will my body be 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.
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Can I select a local funeral home to embalm my body?

No. Special procedures are used that are different from normal embalming. The Willed Body Program works exclusively with a funeral home in our area to provide this service.
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Are there ethical standards in the use of my body in your Program?

Yes. 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.
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What happens to my body after your studies are completed?

Our studies usually are completed in 1 to 4 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 incurs the cost of cremation. All bodies are cremated individually. A final interment form is included with the original donation paperwork. There are two options for final disposition arrangements:

(1) Burial of cremated remains in a WWAMI Medical Education Memorial Plot at Greenwood Cemetery, in Palouse, Washington
(2) Return of the ashes to the next-of-kin via a funeral home or cemetery. We cannot have cremated remains returned directly to the next-of-kin's home. However, you may designate a funeral home or cemetery to receive and hold the ashes. Any costs levied by a funeral home or cemetery for receiving or holding the ashes are the responsibility of the family.

Please indicate your wishes on the final interment form when you return your paperwork and advise your next-of-kin of your wishes. It is also advised that you notify the funeral home or cemetery of your intent if you choose option 2. You or your survivors may change the arrangements by contacting our office in writing.

Bodies are usually cremated in June. There is no cost to the family for burial in Palouse or return of the ashes. If interment in Greenwood cemetery is requested, burial usually takes place in late August. The WWAMI Medical Education 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 stone can be directed to Mark Kramer, Kramer Funeral Home (509) 878-1221.
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What if I change my mind about donation?

The donation forms are not binding documents, only statements of your wishes after death. You may revoke or revise the forms by contacting our office in writing.
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Would it be possible for my family to receive a report of medical findings or disease conditions?

No. We are not trained or authorized to perform autopsies. Our Program does not provide any reports concerning the cause of death or the discovery of any medical conditions.
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Contact us at:

Washington State University
WWAMI Medical Education Program
PO Box 643510
Morrill Hall Room 108
Pullman, WA 99164-3510
Phone: 509-335-2602
Fax: 509-335-7420

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

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WWAMI Medical Education Program, PO Box 643510, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-3510, 509-335-2602, Contact Us