Human Tissue Authority

The regulator for human tissue and organs

Body donation FAQs

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.

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

Although the new 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 recommended that you include an updated intention to donate your body in your Will. More details can be obtained directly from the anatomy establishment to which you wish to donate your body.

Contact details for medical schools are available here.

If you have moved to a new area of the country, but still want to donate your body to the anatomy establishment linked to your old post code, please contact the establishment for more details. Some medical schools may request that your estate contributes to the cost of transporting your body if the donation falls outside of the medical school’s local area. Both the areas covered and contact details of medical schools are available on our medical school finder.

Medical schools will usually decline a body donation if the person has undergone surgery to remove organs 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 taken forward by the relatives, solicitor or executor of the Will; assuming valid consent is in place - please see How to donate your body

If a person wishes to register for both organ donation and body donation, the HTA suggests that the person includes this in their Will and ensures that those closest to them are aware of their wishes.

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

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.

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

Medical schools may hold a memorial service. 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.

You may need to make financial and other arrangements with a funeral director, in relation to the transportation of your body to the medical school of your choice. To enquire about whether this might be possible, please contact your nearest medical school. It is possible that anatomy establishments might not want to accept donations from people who have died abroad, even if they registered to donate while resident in the England, Wales or Northern Ireland. Anyone living abroad cannot register to donate to a UK medical school.

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.

If somone wants to donate their body for medical research but at the time of death it is discovered that a witness has not signed their consent form, the only option is donating their brain to a bank, however the brain bank would probably have to receive it within 48 hours. Brain banks usually accept consent from a next of kin but they have the right to decline.

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