The Human Tissue Authority (HTA) does not collect or receive bodies or other human materials, but we license and inspect the organisations that do.
The HTA’s regulation helps ensure that tissue is stored to high standards, to be of most use to healthcare training and research.
We know that more people are willing to donate in the knowledge there is an effective regulator that monitors and inspects organisations against certain standards.
Body donations are highly valued by staff and students at medical schools. A donated body can be used for a number of purposes, which may include:
- Anatomical examination – teaching students or healthcare professionals about the structure and function of the human body.
- Research – scientific studies which to improve the understanding of the human body.
- Education and training – training healthcare professionals on surgical techniques.
How to donate your body
Anyone can decide to donate their body, and medical schools welcome the offer of a donation. If you are interested in donating your body, you will need to contact a medical school for further information and a consent form. For information about how to contact your local medical school, enter your postcode into our search facility, email us or call us on 020 7269 1900.
Under the Human Tissue Act 2004, written and witnessed consent for anatomical examination must be given prior to death. Consent cannot be given by anyone else after your death. A consent form can be obtained from your local medical school and a copy should be kept with your Will. You should also inform your family, close friends, and GP that you wish to donate your body.
Medical schools which accept donated bodies 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. Full details can be obtained directly from the medical schools.
Do medical schools accept all bodies?
There are various reasons why medical schools may decline the offer of a donation; they can give you more information about this when you contact them. For example, certain medical conditions may lead to the offer being declined. If a post-mortem examination (sometimes referred to as an ‘autopsy’) is needed, this may also mean that a medical school declines the offer of a body donation.
Medical schools might not be able to accept donated bodies during holiday periods, such as Christmas. Donors should ensure that they have an alternative funeral plan should their body donation not be accepted.
It is possible to donate brain tissue up to 48 hours after death so if body donation is not possible, brain donation may be an alternative option.
If body donation for ‘anatomical examination’ is not possible, you may be able to donate your body for other types of training.
For example, the National Repository Centre, based in Nottingham, was established to support members of the public who wish to donate their bodies for medical education or training. In common with medical schools, they have a body donation scheme that allows potential donors to register with them before they die.
Donating your body, organs and tissue
Despite being separate donation systems, it is possible for a person to be registered as an organ donor, and to have registered their wish to donate their body to a medical school. However, medical schools will usually decline a body donation if the person has undergone surgery to remove organs for transplantation. If after their death, the person is found unsuitable to be an organ donor, it may be possible for body donation to a medical school to be taken forward by the relatives, solicitor or executor of the Will; as long as valid consent is in place.
If a person wishes to register for both organ donation and body donation, the HTA recommends that the person ensures that those closest to them are aware of their wishes and includes these wishes in their Will. Further information on organ donation can be found on the NHS Blood and Transplant website: www.organdonation.nhs.uk.
If I donate my body, will there be a funeral or memorial service?
Medical schools will usually arrange for donated bodies to be cremated, unless the family requests the return of the body for a private burial or cremation. Medical schools may also hold a committal, memorial or thanksgiving services. Further information on local arrangements can be obtained directly from the medical school.
Are there any costs or payments involved?
You will not receive any payment for donating your body. Some medical schools may request that the donor’s estate contribute to the cost of transporting the body, particularly if the donation falls outside of the medical school’s local area. Full details can be obtained directly from the medical school.
The HTA has no role in regulating anatomy teaching in Scotland. If you live in Scotland and wish to donate your body, you can find further information on the Scottish Government website.
You will need to ensure that you discuss your wishes with your next of kin, include your wishes in your Will, and contact a university that has an anatomy department. There are five universities in Scotland with anatomy departments which receive bodies donated for anatomical examination, and their details can be found on the ‘University Contact Details’ page when you go to the above website:
• St Andrews
Body donation in the Isle of Wight or Channel Islands
The Isle of Wight and Channel Islands have no body donation process of their own. It might be possible for a medical school on the UK mainland to accept a body donation from the Isle of Wight or Channel Islands, as long as the requirements of the Human Tissue Act 2004 are met. The nearest medical school is the University of Southampton, however please bear in mind that body donations will only be accepted up to five days after death.
If you live in in the Isle of Wight or Channel Islands and are considering body donation, you may need to make financial arrangements with a local funeral director in relation to the transportation of your body to the medical school of your choice. To enquire about whether this is possible, please contact the medical school.
Can I donate my body from abroad?
Body donations are required for training and education worldwide so you may wish to consider donating your body in your current country of residence. Where ‘anatomical examination’ is concerned, the Human Tissue Act 2004 (the ‘HT Act’) does not apply in areas outside England, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, the HT Act does allow ‘imported’ bodies and other human material to be stored and used for anatomical examination in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.
Although imported bodies and material are exempt from the HT Act’s requirements for consent, death certification and registration, a medical school might ask potential donors to follow their usual consent procedures before a donation may be accepted.
It is possible that an anatomy establishment might not accept a donation from someone who has died abroad.
- Further information is available in our FAQs.
- You can also download a body and brain donation information pack (PDF), which is a printable version of the information held on this website.
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