Possessions and money are not the only issues which can be considered when making a will.
Some people choose to donate their body to medical science after death in the hope that it will be of some practical use. Donated remains are used by medical students for anatomical examination, for research to improve understanding of the human body and also for education and training, usually by those learning surgical techniques.
Under the Human Tissue Act 2004, which came into force in 2006, an individual wishing to donate their body to medical science must give his or her written consent. Consent cannot be given by anyone else after death. A consent form can be obtained from your local medical school and a copy should be kept with your will. You should also tell family, close friends and your GP that you wish to donate your body.
The Human Tissue Authority (HTA) licenses and inspects establishments such as medical schools which teach anatomy using donated bodies. The authority holds details of the schools and can put prospective donors in touch with them. See its website or telephone 020 7211 3437.
You will not receive any payment for donating your body and some medical schools may request that the donor’s estate contribute to the cost of transporting the body, particularly if the donation falls outside the school’s local area.
For those people who might have signed a consent form before the 2006 legislation, the HTA says that the new regulations allow an earlier documented and valid consent for body donation to be honoured. However, it points out that ‘the ease with which your body donation offer is accepted might be improved if 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’.
People who choose to donate their body or organs do so in the hope that this will benefit others. Despite the donation procedures being different, 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.
Medical schools will usually decline a body donation if the person has undergone surgery to remove organs for transplant. If someone wishes to register for both organ donation and body donation, the HTA suggests that they include this in their will and ensure that those closest to them are aware of their wishes.
All medical schools welcome the offer of a donation. However, certain medical conditions may lead to an offer being declined. More information can be obtained from individual schools.
If a medical school is unable to accept a donation, it may be able to help you find another school which can.
Medical schools will usually arrange for a donated body to be cremated, unless the family requests that it be returned for a private burial or cremation. Alternatively, the following human tissue banks accept brain and spinal tissue for research into specific conditions. As well as needing particular types of tissue from people with the conditions named below, they also accept donations of brain and spinal tissue from people without these conditions as controls in their research.
London Neurodegenerative Diseases Brain Bank
Tel: 020 7848 0290
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Tissue Bank
Tel: 020 7594 9734
Tel for outside office hours: 07659 132045
Parkinson’s Disease Tissue Bank
Tel: 020 7594 9732
Tel for outside office hours: 07659 104537
Brain Bank for Autism and Related Developmental Research, Oxford University
Tel: 0800 089 0707