Anatomical Gifts Program

Information for Body Donors

Arnold S. Fabricant, M.D., Medical Director
Hanna Riendeau, Administrative Director

General information

Anatomical dissection plays an important role in modern medical education and research. The Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth (Geisel), through its Anatomical Gifts Program, accepts body donations from persons who desire to leave their bodies to medical science and education.

Donors must be 21 or older. They must reside in, and death must occur in New Hampshire or Vermont.

We only accept body donations from individuals who have personally registered with us in advance of death.

How do I register?

Two forms must be completed and returned:

The Anatomical Gift Authorization is not a contract. It is a document that declares your wish to have your body donated to the Geisel School of Medicine. Three (3) members of your family or other responsible parties should witness your signature on this document. Since signatures are required on the original document, we cannot process requests electronically. Please call the office (603.650.1636) if you would like us to send you the forms in the mail.

When we receive your completed forms, we will send you a wallet size card to carry and two copies of the Anatomical Gifts Authorization. Please keep one copy in your records and give the other to your family members or other responsible parties.

May I withdraw at any time?

Yes. Please notify us in writing that you wish to withdraw from the program.

Can I donate the body of a family member?

No. Geisel accepts body donations only from individuals who have personally registered with us in advance of their death.

Does registration insure that my body will be accepted at the time of my death?

No. The number of registered body donors has increased significantly in the past few years. Therefore, we reserve the right to decline a body donation if our facility is temporarily full. However, we are an ongoing body donation program and try to accept all registered donors.

Sometimes, we have to decline a body donation if the condition of the body is not suitable for our studies. Conditions that may render a body unsuitable include certain infectious diseases, certain vascular diseases, open wounds (such as unhealed surgery or trauma), and extreme malnutrition or obesity.

Alternate arrangements

Please discuss alternative plans with your family, in the unlikely event that we do not accept your gift of body.

What about autopsies or organ donations?

In order for us to accept a body, the body must remain intact after death. We can not accept body donation if an autopsy has been performed or if organs have been donated.

Financial considerations

Upon acceptance of a body donation, the Geisel School of Medicine will be financially responsible for the following:

The Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth is not responsible for funerals, obituaries, or any other services not specifically mentioned above.

The cost of providing these services is a factor that limits the number of body donations we can accept each year. Monetary contributions to the Anatomical Gifts Program are gratefully accepted and allow us to provide greater support for medical education and research. Please see Gifts in Memoriam.

What if death does not occur in a hospital?

We cannot transport a body until the death certificate is signed by a physician. When death occurs at home, there is often a delay in obtaining the necessary paperwork.

Under these circumstances, it may be necessary for a local funeral director to hold the body until we can transport it. We are not responsible for this expense.

Most of the time, however, when death occurs at home we are able to make all arrangements without cost to the family.

Final Disposition

Our studies may take as long as two years to complete. All bodies are cremated at the completion of our studies.

On occasion, a body has a pacemaker, artificial limb or joint, dental reconstruction or other prosthesis. These items cannot be cremated and are removed from the body. Any of these items will be returned if a request is made at the time of the body donation (before we begin our studies).

Following cremation, we will return the cremains to the next-of-kin or to a designated funeral director. If preferred, we can inter the cremains in our communal cemetery plot in Hanover.

Autopsy Reports

We do not perform autopsies. An autopsy is a procedure to study disease, and our studies usually involve normal anatomic structures.

We are unable to provide any medical report on a body donor.

Notification procedure at the time of death

We should be informed immediately after the time of death. We will ask a few questions about the cause of death and about the condition of the body.

If we accept the donation, we will make the arrangements to remove and transport the body to Hanover.

If a funeral director is called before we are notified of the donor's death, expenses may be incurred for which we will not pay.

Notification of death is made by calling:

Weekdays 8:30 AM - 4:00 PM
Anatomical Gifts Program Office
(603) 650-1636

Nights, weekends, and holidays
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center
(603) 650-5000

Indicate you are calling about a potential body donor's death. The appropriate staff will be contacted.

Gifts in Memoriam

We welcome monetary contributions made in memory of our donors. Gifts will be used to support the scientific and educational missions of the Department of Anatomy.

Please consider asking your family to state in your obituary notice that gifts (in lieu of flowers) may be made to the Anatomical Gifts Program. Geisel is a not-for-profit educational institution, and contributions may be tax deductible.

Please send donations to:

Anatomical Gifts Program
Department of Anatomy
Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth
Hanover, NH 03755-3832