Dilemma: I want to donate my body to science – how?

Katharine Whitehorn / 22 April 2016

A reader writes to agony aunt Katharine Whitehorn to find out how they can donate their body to science after they have died.

Dilemma: how do I donate my body to science?

I have always had a keen interest in science and medicine but it isn't something I ever made a career from.

Recently I have thinking about my funeral arrangements and have decided that what I'd really like to do is donate my body to science. I believe that in this way I'll be able to make a difference and my death will be beneficial in some way, perhaps even helping to save lives.

I'm unsure about what my next steps are and how I can ensure that my body is left for science after I am gone.

Katharine Whitehorn's advice

First, write in your will that you want this to be done – no one else can give permission after you’ve gone for your body to be so used. 

Then, when the end is near, someone must contact your local medical school and find out whether they want the body – it may not be suitable, for example if organs have been removed for transplanting – or the school may have too many at any one time and so on. They don’t only want bodies for research into illness but also for students to learn everything they need to know about normal human anatomy.

So how do you find your local medical school? You get on the Human Tissue Authority website and they list not only all the schools, and their areas, but also, most helpfully, who to contact at each and the relevant phone numbers. 

And make sure your family know that this is what you want, so they aren’t shocked at a vulnerable time.

Related: how watertight is your will?

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