Human Tissue Authority

The regulator for human tissue and organs

Body donation

Please see below for a number of frequently asked questions from a specific category. Simply select one of the questions of interest, the answer will then appear below. For the complete list of categories please visit the main FAQs page.

Please be aware that body donations are affected due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

As this situation is likely to continue for an unknown period of time, donors should ensure that they have an alternative funeral plan should their body donation not be accepted.

A map of medical schools accepting body donations can be found here. Type your postcode in the search bar on the left, select the correct postcode from the purple box, and click on the red icon on the map for details of who to contact at your local medical school. Alternatively download our list of contacts (PDF).

The law affecting body donation (the Human Tissue Act 2004) came into force on 1 September 2006. It allows documented and valid consent for body donation made under the old law to be honoured. To avoid any unnecessary confusion or delays after you die, it is advised that you include an updated intention to donate your body for anatomical examination in your Will. More details can be obtained directly from your local medical school.

Contact details for medical schools are available.

If you have moved to a new area of the country, but still want to donate your body to the medical school linked to your old postcode, please contact them for more details. Some medical schools may request that your estate contribute to the cost of transporting your body if the donation falls outside of the medical school’s local area.

Contact details of medical schools are available.

Medical schools will usually decline a body donation if the person has undergone surgery to remove organs for transplantation. However, if after death, the person is found unsuitable to be an organ donor, then body donation to a medical school can be taken forward by the relatives, solicitor or executor of the Will if valid, written consent from the donor in life is in place - please see 'How to donate your body'.

If a person wishes to register for both organ and tissue donation and body donation, the HTA advises that the person ensures that those closest to them are aware of their wishes.

For more information on organ and tissue donation, please visit the NHS Blood and Transplant website.

If you would like to donate your body for anatomical examination and you do not wish to be considered as an organ and tissue donor, you can ‘opt out’ on the NHS Organ Donor Register. If you do not ‘opt out’, your consent to organ and tissue donation may be deemed if you live and die in England or Wales. If you have registered for both organ and tissue donation and body donation, deemed consent will not affect your wishes.

For more information on organ and tissue donation and deemed consent, please see our Public Guide on Code F.

All medical schools welcome the offer of a donation. However, certain medical conditions may lead to the offer being declined. Medical schools can give you more information about these conditions and any other reasons why a body donation may be declined.

Post-mortem examination (sometimes referred to as an ‘autopsy’) is an important reason why a medical school might decline the offer of a body donation. We recommend that potential donors and their families are prepared to consider alternative arrangements in these circumstances, which can arise unexpectedly. Depending on the circumstances of a person’s death, a Coroner might require, by law, that a post-mortem examination takes place.

It is important to note that medical schools might not be able to accept donated bodies during holiday periods, such as Christmas.

If no medical school is able to accept your offer, your estate will need to make suitable funeral arrangements.

Medical schools may hold committal, memorial or thanksgiving services. Further information can be obtained directly from the medical school.

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 Isle of Man 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 Man or Channel Islands, as long as the requirements of the Human Tissue Act 2004 are met.

If you live in in the Isle of Man 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.

The HTA has no role in regulating anatomy teaching in Scotland. If you live in Scotland and wish to donate your body contact details of medical schools can be obtained from the Scottish Government.

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 anatomy establishments might not want to accept donations from people who have died abroad.

No. The Human Tissue Act 2004 requires a positive decision to be made in writing, by the person, before their death.