Death isn’t something many of us like to think about too often, but it will sadly come to us all. Therefore, plenty of people like making plans ahead of time as what will happen to their physical forms after they pass away. This can be a bit grisly for some people – however, it is much in the same vein as planning for a specific type of funeral or wake.
In plenty of cases all over the world, people choose to take conscious action and sign up to donate their bodies to medical science. Rather than be buried or cremated and scattered, it is entirely possible for you to request that your body be used as part of ongoing medical research after you expire. This is often a noble cause – as it means that, thanks to your sacrifice, you may allow millions more to live longer and happier lives.
But how do you actually donate your body to science? Let’s take a look at a few facts to break this all down.
Body donation to science is likely to be rarer than you might think. It is UK medical schools who accept cadaver donations, and they will normally see between 1,000 and 1,500 bodies delivered each year. However, this data can change as a result of changes in the country’s illness profile and other factors. For example, at the time of writing, it is unclear how these numbers will change as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Donating your body might seem similar to donating organs after death, however, there’s a different process to follow. When you sign up as an organ donor, you consent online via the NHS to carry a card. This means that you agree that your organs may be used after your passing for transplants.
However, to leave your body to medical science, you’re going to need to get in touch with a medical college or school. You’ll have access to a variety of forms and consents, meaning that you are in complete control of the process.
However, you can only decide to leave your body in this manner if you are of ‘sound mind’. This means that you must be in full control of your own decision-making. Donating your body to science is not something someone can do on your behalf.
However, you can decide through form-filling how you would like your relatives to be notified. You even have authority over what happens to your body following research and analysis. This means you can have a full funeral after the event if you wish.
The rules currently state that you are going to need to be at least 17 years of age to consent in writing to body donation. As this is such a sensitive process, all consents need to be made in writing.
You can choose for your body to stay at a medical school for up to three years before disposal. Again, this is something you have complete control over!
However, you may not have control over whether or not a school or college can accept your body as part of a donation. There are many reasons for this. It is worthwhile reading through all the forms and terms offered to you by a school before you go through with consent.
Do also bear in mind that donating your body to science means that you largely give full rein over what researchers and professionals can do during their research. We won’t go through the full grisly detail here! However, just be aware that research on donated bodies can vary, and yes – it can go rather deep, quite literally!
If you decide that donating your body to science is too mild an option, you can actually donate your body for display! Dr Gunther von Hagens is a famous anatomist who has presented exhibits and TV autopsies over the years, showing the public the marvels of their inner workings. Using plastination, donated bodies are completely preserved. It’s thought that over 18,000 people are on Dr von Hagens’ books for donation!