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Donating your body

What you should do if you want to donate your body for medical research.

Medical Research

There is a shortage of bodies used for medical research and training.

If you want to donate your body you have to give written consent.

A written consent form can be obtained from your nearest medical school. Contact details for medical schools can be obtained from the Human Tissue Authority.

Medical schools have different body donation acceptance criteria.

When you complete the consent form, and it is signed and witnessed, a copy should be kept with your will.

Inform your family and GP that you have consented to donate your body.

Put this information in the Open First section of your Lifebox so the second key holder, usually your executor or next of kin, can access it when they open your Lifebox when your death has been confirmed. 

Medical schools will usually decline a body donation if organs have been removed for transplantation.

However, if after their death, the person is found unsuitable to be an organ donor, then body donation to a medical school can be organised by the relatives, solicitor or executor.

Medical schools normally arrange for donated bodies to be cremated, unless the family request the return of the body for a private burial or cremation.

A memorial funeral service or ceremony may be held at the medical school.

Medical schools will normally only accept donations from within their local area due to the transport costs involved. Offers of body donation from outside the area may be accepted on the condition that the donor’s estate bears the cost of transporting the body.  

Several medical schools are also involved in research requiring donated bodies. Your local school will be able to advise you of this.

What happens to donated bodies

When held by the medical school, the body will be used to teach medical students, dentists, trainee surgeons and other health professionals the internal structure and design. This involves separation of the tissues and organs through dissection.

Separated parts of the body will be brought together before the body is cremated within three years from the date of death.

If the donor, before death, or the next of kin after death, give their written agreement, parts of the body can be retained for longer than three years. The particular details for donations to each medical school are set out in the body donor consent documents .

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