Some people very generously choose to donate their body to medical science. In most cases bodies donated are used for teaching anatomy to medical students or for trainee surgeons to refine their skills. Each medical school has responsibility for a certain area of the country and you can find the list of postcodes and contact details for the medical schools at www.hta.gov.uk. This activity is regulated in law by the Human Tissue Authority.

Medical students are taught to treat the bodies of people who have donated with respect and usually the deceased person will be covered except for the area which is being taught at the time.

At the end of the period for which the deceased person is kept (usually 2-3 years), the medical school will arrange a funeral, usually a cremation. This is paid for by the medical school. If a family wants to arrange a funeral themselves they can do so by informing the medical school of this.

Each year the medical school will organise a memorial service for the people who have donated their bodies and their families will be invited. Medical students will usually take part in the service and attend as a gesture of gratitude to both the people who died and their families.

Sometimes the body of someone who wanted to donate cannot be accepted. This may be because they had certain medical conditions which make this impossible or because the coroner needs to do a post-mortem examination.

Please click on the question below you are interested in to find the support you need.

What do we need to do to comply with what the person who has died wanted?
We have been told the deceased cannot be donated – is there anything else we can do?
We don’t want body donation to go ahead – what can we do?
We can’t afford a funeral – can we donate the deceased’s body to medical science?
We know the person who died wanted to donate their body but they never got round to doing the forms – can this still go ahead?
What can we do instead of a funeral?

 

What do we need to do to comply with what the person who has died wanted?

Tell the hospital or doctor as soon as possible and contact the medical school. Provided the doctor can issue a certificate, contact the registrar of deaths and explain that you need an urgent appointment because there is a donation of the body to medical science.

Contact the Anatomy Office at the medical school and they will explain what happens next which includes getting the forms the deceased person had completed if they do not already hold their own copies. They will also ask the doctor to complete a form about the deceased person’s medical history.

As soon as possible the medical school will arrange for the the deceased person to be collected from the hospital mortuary to enable it to be preserved (embalmed) to a very high standard to allow it to be kept for 2-3 years. This is a much higher standard of preservation than used by funeral directors between death and an ordinary funeral.
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We have been told the deceased cannot be donated – is there anything else we can do?

Unless there is to be a coroner’s post-mortem examination you could offer the hospital the chance to do a post-mortem examination for learning and research purposes and to keep any organs or tissue for research. Researchers often find it difficult to obtain normal tissue to act as a comparison with diseased tissue, which is often an important part of research. However not all hospitals have the facilities to carry out post-mortem examinations.

You will need to take responsibility for arranging the funeral yourselves.
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We don’t want body donation to go ahead – what can we do?

If you do not tell anyone that the person wanted to donate their body, no arrangements can be made. Think carefully though. It takes quite an effort for someone to consider this as an option, obtain the necessary forms and complete them, so it must have been something your relative or friend really wanted. You need to think about whether you will feel guilty later if you don’t do what they wanted – even if you are not comfortable with the idea.
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We can’t afford a funeral – can we donate the deceased’s body to medical science?

No, you cannot do this. A person must have given signed consent to donate their own body to science after their death. No-one can make this decision on behalf of someone else after their death.
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We know the person who died wanted to donate their body but they never got round to doing the forms – can this still go ahead?

No, you cannot do this. A person must have given signed consent to donate their own body to science after their death. No-one can make this decision on behalf of someone else after their death.
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What can we do instead of a funeral?

Many people choose to have a memorial service or ceremony if someone has donated their body to medical science. This can be very similar to a funeral or can be completely different
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