Donating your body to medical science

A chance conversation recently with my niece led me to look in to this subject a little more deeply.

She happens to be studying to be a doctor and this Autumn she was looking forward to her first time on the wards. In passing, I’d mentioned my Funeral Stationery 4U blog and my wish to look at donating bodies to medical science.

I was quite taken aback when she told me that, such is the shortage of people wishing to donate their bodies to medical science, her intake at this particular London training hospital was the last to be provided cadavers for their research.

But why the shortage?

My gut feeling was that it must be down to a lack of awareness amongst the population in general and people just not knowing how valuable cadavers are to medical research.

But the truth of it seems to be the exact opposite. The shortage of bodies for medical research is more down to high demand than any other factor. And a demand which has grown inexorably over the last four centuries.

In the 19th century, some medical schools hired bodysnatchers to dig up the recently deceased. Rather macabrely, the acclaimed 17th-century English scientist William Harvey even resorted to dissecting his own father and sister for his research.

Today’s huge growth in scientific research has only compounded the problem.

Not only are the number of medical students increasing but so is the number of research programmes using cadavers.

Researchers and pharmaceutical companies use bodies to develop new procedures and treatments. Human organs are required for clinics and hospitals for transplants.

So, how do you donate your body?

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 more information, you might find this link useful.

However, it is important to note that consent cannot be given by anyone else after your death.

A consent form can be obtained from yourlocal medical school and a copy should be kept with your Will. It is only considerate to those dearest to you that you inform your family, close friends, and GP that you wish to donate your body.

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