Whole body donation

Before you die make your wishes known

If you wish to donate your whole body for medical training it is essential that before you die, you make your wishes known in writing and that this is witnessed. You should also inform your next of kin and the executor of your Will if this is not the same person. Your executor or next of kin are not allowed to arrange whole body donation if you have not given consent yourself during your life.

It is best to use a form created specifically for this purpose from the medical school which accepts donations from your area - find which school accepts donations from your address.

It is an important part of the training of medical students that they learn the detailed structure of the body. Many advanced surgical techniques also need to be learnt using actual bodies rather than models.

It is not always possible for a body to be accepted as it will depend on both the requirements of the medical school at the time and also the circumstances of the death and the conditions from which the person died.

Where there is a whole body donation, the funeral is usually arranged by the medical school as there may be a delay of about two to three years before it takes place. Memorial services are arranged regularly to which families are invited. However, if you are thinking of donating your body in this way it is important to remember that if the circumstances of your death mean that donation is not possible, the cost of your funeral will have to be met by your estate.

The Human Tissue Authority licenses premises and regulates post-mortem examinations (except those done for the Coroner) and body donations in England, Wales & Northern Ireland. It also undertakes certain activities on behalf of the Scottish Executive which has separate legislation.

The Human Tissue Authority
151 Buckingham Palace Road
London SW1V 9SZ

Enquiries about body donations: 020 7269 1900 (normal office hours only).

Human Tissue Authority (HTA) website.

As soon as possible after death, those making the arrangements should contact the nearest Medical School, who will provide advice and information on what happens next.

Wherever someone has died it is very important that the professionals are made aware of the deceased's wish to donate their body. This will ensure that they commence the necessary administrative procedures promptly to meet the timescales required by the medical schools. Meanwhile, if the person has not died in hospital, a funeral director should be asked to store the body as soon as possible explaining what is intended.

More articles