Last updated on 08 Mar 2022

How to donate your body to a medical school

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 tool or contact us directly.

We do not regulate body donation in Scotland. People living in Scotland can find more information about body donation on the Scottish government website.

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.

The role of the HTA

Our role is to make sure that these organisations remove, store, and use brains, bodies and tissues in an appropriate, respectful and well-managed way, and that the wishes of individual patients and their families are respected. 

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 improve the understanding of the human body.   
  • Education and training – training healthcare professionals on surgical techniques. 

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.