The need for whole body donation

All physicians must have a thorough knowledge of the structure of the human body. This is obtained early in their medical education by studying anatomy through the dissection of the human body. One hundred percent of the cadavers used by the University of New England have been donated by people in Maine with a deep commitment to medical education. It is through this most precious gift of whole body donation that medical and other health profession students receive their education and physicians learn new clinical procedures throughout their careers.

Anatomical donation forms are available on this webpage, upon request, or by calling (207) 602-2202, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information contact Jannika Coons at (207) 602-2202.

Request Donation Forms

Anatomical Donor Program
University of New England
College of Osteopathic Medicine
11 Hills Beach Road
Biddeford, ME 04005

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The Maine Anatomical Gift Act

The Anatomical Gift Act is the state of Maine law that allows people to donate their bodies or organs, and it provides protections for both the donor and the university.

Essentially, the law states:

  • Any person 18 or older may donate their body after death for education or research
  • A donor's valid statement of gift is paramount to the right of others, except where the state law prevails
  • The donor may revoke the intended gift at any time
  • On rare occasions, enrolled anatomical donors may find that their gift must be rejected to the limitations of the program
  • An accredited medical school, university or hospital may receive an anatomical gift for the purposes of education or research
  • All donated bodies are treated with the utmost respect and confidentiality

Who Can Donate?

By completing the Anatomical Donor Forms before death, anyone more than 18 years old may donate their body. The program is only open to residents of the state of Maine. The Anatomical Donor Program cannot accept people who reside outside of Maine. The form must be signed in witness of two people (anyone 18 years or older and preferably the legal next-of-kin or executor).

The Uniform Anatomical Gift Act allows individuals to bequeath their bodies to medical schools or hospitals, without permission of the next-of-kin. Yet, this Anatomical Donor Program requires relatives’ consent for donation to preserve the sanctity of the donor’s family relations. Therefore, it is important to have the legal next-of-kin or an executor witness and sign the donor form.

There is no upper age limit for whole body donation. Amputation of single limbs and mild weight concerns do not prevent acceptance.

A body that is significantly overweight or underweight is unsuitable for anatomical study, therefore anatomical donors must fit within specific body mass index (BMI) restrictions at the time of death. Anatomical Donors with a BMI greater than 31 will not be enrolled in the Anatomical Donor Program. 

There are some medical conditions that prevent acceptance into the Anatomical Donor Program, including: HIV, hepatitis, tuberculosis and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Extensive trauma to the body at the time of death or advanced decomposition would also exclude the anatomical donor from the program because the body is unsuitable for anatomical study.

Anatomical donors involved in criminal cases, or who are held for possible investigation by the state medical examiner's (coroner’s) office are also unacceptable for anatomical donation.

Next-of-Kin's wishes

Under the Uniform Gift Act of Maine, a donor’s wishes take legal precedence over those of their legal next-of-kin. However, the university strongly urges anatomical donors to discuss their plan with their family so that their wishes may be clearly understood. UNE will refuse the anatomical donation if there are strong objections from the family.

Changes or Cancelations

If a donor changes their name or address, they should notify the Anatomical Donor Program at the address below or via telephone.

Anatomical Donor Program
University of New England
College of Osteopathic Medicine
11 Hills Beach Road
Biddeford, ME 04005
(207) 602-2202

If a donor wishes to cancel their anatomical gift they should notify the Anatomical Donor Program at the above address and return their donor card and donor documentation.

Alternative Arrangements

Confirmation of the acceptance of the anatomical gift will be made at the time of the anatomical donor’s death by the legal next-of-kin or executor. Acceptance of an anatomical gift is contingent upon the needs of the university at the time of donor’s death. Accordingly, anatomical donors are required to make alternative arrangements in the event that UNE is unable to accept the anatomical donation.

At the Time of Death

At the time of an anatomical donor’s death, the legal next-of-kin or executor should contact a physician and notify Hope Memorial Chapel, which administers the UNE’s Anatomical Donor Program. Contact information for the Anatomical Donor Program is on the back of the Anatomical Donor’s membership card and throughout their Anatomical Donor paperwork.

Contact information

Hope Memorial Chapel
480 Elm St.
Biddeford, ME 04005
(207) 282-6300

Hope Memorial Chapel can be reached at all times, whether during business hours or at night, on weekends and during holidays for immediate action. They will arrange for transportation of the anatomical donor to their facility and subsequently to the UNE College of Osteopathic Medicine.

For those who regularly travel to other parts of the United States, the Anatomical Donor Program encourages them to also join a body donation program in that area to provide coverage while away from home. UNE’s Anatomical Donor Program is unable to accept anatomical donors from out-of-state locations, even if they are already enrolled in the program.

For assistance with finding a body donation program outside Maine please contact:

Anatomical Donor Program
University of New England
College of Osteopathic Medicine
11 Hills Beach Road
Biddeford, ME 04005
(207) 602-2202

The Living Bank
PO Box 6725
Houston, TX 77625
(800) 528-2971

Financial Remuneration

By Maine law, no payment may be made with respect to the anatomical body donation. The university will pay for the cost of transportation, embalming and cremation of the anatomical donor.

When Study of the Body is Complete

Medical study of the body can take from one to four years. When the study is finished, the anatomical donors will be cremated and their remains will be returned to the legal next-of-kin or executor. When the donor forms are completed, the wishes of the anatomical donor must be indicated, including future contact information for the legal next-of-kin or executor. When the anatomical donor comes into the program, it is vital for the family to remain in contact with the Anatomical Donor Program to ensure their family member’s remains are returned or if they wish to change the documented arrangements of the anatomical donor.

Alternatively, cremated remains may be interred at the UNE memorial site on the Biddeford campus.

There is an annual, multi-denominational memorial service for the anatomical donors during the fall. The legal next-of-kin or executor of anatomical donors will be invited to attend these services. After anatomical donors’ studies have been completed, one to four years after their death, the legal next-of-kin will be informed of the date, location and time of the annual, multi-denominational memorial service.