Anatomical bequests to the University of Minnesota

University of Minnesota Medical School
3–005 BSBE
312 Street S.E.
Minneapolis, MN 55455
The University of Minnesota Medical School Anatomy Bequest Program, established in 1901, is a whole body donation program. The primary mission of the Anatomy Bequest program is to ensure the availability of human bodies to aid in anatomy, education, research, clinical practice and biomedical device design. The Anatomy Bequest Program supports statewide education to advance the understanding of human anatomy.

Families of donors can hold pre-burial rites—viewings and funeral services—at funeral homes before the University of Minnesota takes possession of the bodies. (The donation program will advise funeral home employees of any special embalming and handling procedures.) Once study of a donated body is complete,

  • Remains can be cremated and interred into program graves.
  • Remains can be cremated and returned to the family.
  • Or the entire body can be returned for burial.

(Note, though, that studies can last for years, and body donation programs can’t predict how long it will be before a body is returned to the family.)

Every year the University of Minnesota Medical School students coordinate an interfaith memorial service to publicly recognize the donors who have generously donated themselves to ensure the education of future generations of health professionals. Faculty, staff and students attend and participate in this service to publicly express their appreciation to the donors and their families. Family members are invited to attend this service if they choose to be notified.

Survivors may derive comfort from the knowledge that dignity and respect for those who have donated their bodies is maintained at all times. The indispensable contribution that participants in the Anatomy Bequest Program have made is fully recognized. The laboratories are restricted. Only faculty, staff, or students of health-related professions are authorized to use of the University of Minnesota facility.

The University has a comprehensive oversight program. The director and assistant director are funeral directors licensed by the state and they must comply with laws regulating the care of human bodies. (There are only about a dozen Medical Schools throughout the country that employ funeral directors to manage their anatomy donor programs.)

A number of safeguards ensure that bodies are handled with appropriate respect. A committee evaluates requests for all uses of human bodies, and staff members regularly participate in and monitor all studies. State law prohibits selling bodies or body parts, and the University of Minnesota complies with all laws, rules and regulations.

Unlike the Institute for Plastination, the University of Minnesota doesn’t make specimens available for public exhibition. The closest parallels are education forums, where laypeople sign up for “mini medical school,” which might include a human anatomy specimen showing pathology or normal anatomy. The University considers this type of education part of its land grant responsibility for teaching and public service.