Donating your body to science
Body donation is an invaluable resource for medical schools, used to teach medical professionals of the future and as part of scientific studies to help experts understand the human body and disease. Unfortunately, many people are unaware that there is a requirement to apply, and not everyone that applies can be accepted.
For this reason, it is important not to consider donating your body to science as a way of avoiding funeral costs and to have considered alternative funeral options, should you apply and your body be rejected when the time comes.
If I donate my body to medical science, what will it be used for?
Body donation after death is an important resource for training healthcare professionals and valuable research into disease.
If you donate your body to science it may be used for purposes such as:
- Teaching students about the human body
- Scientific studies which look to improve the understanding of the human body and disease
- Training healthcare professionals on surgical techniques
Can I donate my body to science?
Medical schools welcome the offer of donation of anyone over the age of 17 (there is no upper age limit), although not everyone will be accepted.
Acceptance will depend on the requirements of the medical school at the time of death as well as the circumstances of the death. There are several reasons you may be rejected, which include:
- You have had an organ removed because you are also an organ donor
- You have undergone a post-mortem
- You have had recent surgery
- You have a medical condition or severe infection
- You died abroad
The process of giving your body to science
Leaving your body to medical science is something you will need to plan for. Consent for body donation cannot be given by anyone else after your death. The Human Tissue Act 2004 requires that you have given written and witnessed consent your body donation while you are alive.
If you are interested in donating your body to medical science, you will need to contact your local medical school for further information and a consent form. You can search for your local medical school using your postcode on the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) website. We are unable to provide specific instructions for donating your body to science, as this may differ from school to school.
Although it can be difficult discussing your end of life wishes, it is important you inform your family of your decision to donate your body to medical science, as they will likely be the ones who will notify the medical school of your death. It is also advisable to keep a copy of the completed consent form in your will and to advise your GP of your wishes.
Once notified of the death, the body should arrive at the medical school as soon as possible. The medical school will examine the body before deciding whether to accept it. Medical schools may be unable to accept bodies over weekends or over bank holidays, such as Christmas.
You should be aware that your family may be asked to cover the cost of transporting your body to the medical school from your estate, especially if the school is not local to the place of rest. For this reason, some medical schools will only accept donations from within their local area.
What happens when the medical school is finished with my body?
Medical schools will usually arrange for your body to be cremated unless your family specifically request your body is returned for a private burial or cremation. If the medical school arrange the cremation they will normally cover the cost. This is not standard practice for all medical schools, so in some cases, the remains may be returned to the family, often a considerable time after the body was donated.
Families that request the body is returned for a private burial or cremation should be aware that the school may hold onto your body for up to three years. This may affect some people’s decision to go ahead with body donation, as some families feel the funeral is an important part of the grieving process, and some people may feel unable to grieve until your body is returned.
What happens if my body donation is rejected by medical science?
As explained, there is no guarantee that your body donation will be accepted, and the final decision to accept your body might not take place until after your death. If your body is not accepted, your relatives or executor named in your will be informed as soon as possible so they can make arrangements for your funeral.
For this reason, it is important for potential donors not to see body donation as a way of avoiding funeral costs, and to have considered alternative funeral arrangements should their body be rejected.
Alternatives to body donation
Share your wishes
If you plan on applying to donate your body to medical science, it is still advisable to have considered alternative options.
The best way to share your alternative funeral wishes in the instance your body is rejected from medical science is to make your wishes known to your loved ones. The best way to do this is to document them - simply fill out our contact form and we’ll email you everything you need to share your wishes with your family.
Share your wishes is a completely free service, that will relieve some of the uncertainty and stress of organising your funeral from your family, and provide reassurance that they are celebrating your life in the way you would have wanted, should your body not be accepted.
Your wishes can be as simple or as detailed as you like, but the more information you can provide, the easier the planning process will be for your family.
Please remember, if you plan on donating your body to science, you will need to contact the relevant medical school directly. We recommend you use our share your wishes form as a way of informing your family of your funeral wishes, should your body be rejected.
Arranging a funeral ahead of time
Many people may consider donating their body to science a risk not worth taking, especially when they learn that not everyone can be accepted.
An alternative to donating your body to medical science, is to have a funeral plan in place. Unlike body donation, which may be rejected, you are guaranteed to be accepted for a Simplicity Cremations Prepaid Funeral Plan.
A plan will protect your family from rising funeral costs and guarantee to cover the cost of the funeral services included in the plan. These plans also remove some of the uncertainty about what you would have wanted.
Choosing a funeral plan can be particularly helpful to those who were considering body donation to avoid or reduce funeral costs.
Our services are available throughout the whole of mainland Great Britain, and unlike body donation where your family may be charged transportation fees, your family will not be charged transportation fees when we take you into our care.
To arrange a funeral plan or to talk to us about sharing your funeral wishes with your family, contact us today. We’re here 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.