If you would like to leave a valuable gift when you die, then donating your body to science may be the answer.

In this guide, you will learn why your body may not be accepted for medical science, how to go about getting your body donation organised and the potential costs involved, and ideas for a backup plan in the event your body is not accepted by a medical school.

Who is this guide for?

  • Anyone wishing to donate their body to medical science
  • Anyone wanting to know the potential costs involved with donating their body to medical science.
  • Anyone wanting to put a backup plan in place if their body is rejected

Reading time:

 1.5 mins

What most people don't know about body donation

  • The two reasons why most bodies are turned down for body donation
  • The most common reason for a medical school declining a body donation is if it has undergone a post mortem.  (A post mortem occurs when the death is sudden or unexplained).  According to the latest Ministry of Justice national statistics,  in 2019, post-mortem examinations were carried out on 39% of all deaths in England & Wales.*
  • Another reason a body will not be accepted by a medical school is if the death was due to a transmissible disease.  
  • Body donation is separate from the organ and tissue donation system.
  • Usually, a medical school will decline a body if organs or tissues have been removed for transplantation (cornea donation is acceptable).  Still, your body can be donated to medical science if it is found to be unsuitable for organ donation.
  • There is no guarantee that a body donation bequest will be accepted.  
  • Every medical school's rate for 'acceptable bodies' is different, and you be surprised to learn that this could be as low as 10%.  
  • Body donation may not be entirely free.  
  • Your family may have to pay for your body to be transported to the medical school.  Nonetheless, the medical school will arrange and pay for donated bodies to be buried or cremated individually.
  • You can request your body donation be returned to your family for a private burial or cremation.  In some cases, select crematoria offer a significant reduction in fees (around 90%) for the cremation of body parts.   
  • If you want to be buried or your ashes interred in a grave with a headstone, your next of kin or Estate will be responsible for covering these costs.  
  • If your body donation is turned down by your medical school, there may be another way to gift your body to science.
  • If the medical school you have registered with is unable to accept your body, The National Repository Centre  (Body donation) in Nottingham might.  The Repository stores bodies and body parts for anatomical research and dissection.  They also loan body parts to medical schools.  The body parts are always returned to the Repository.  Talk to your medical school for more details.

How to donate your body to medical science

If you want to donate your body to medical science, you will have to give written and witnessed consent before you die for it to be deemed acceptable.

To find the nearest medical school near you and get a donor pack, click here.

A backup plan if your body is not accepted by a medical school

If your body is not accepted for medical science, and as you are already planning ahead, you might want to consider buying a funeral plan.   A funeral plan fixes the cost at today's prices.

A No Frills direct cremation funeral plan is likely to be the most suitable.  Direct cremation is the cheapest and simplest way for a body to be cremated.  The cremation is unattended.  Most funeral plan providers will refund the cost of a funeral plan, less a cancellation fee, if your body is accepted and the funeral plan isn't needed after all.    You can compare the cost of suitable prepaid funeral plans here

If you haven't or don't want to buy a funeral plan, leave instructions for loved ones in our free Funeral Wishes Planner.

Coronavirus pandemic

Until recently, any body donor who had previously tested positive for COVID-19 within a certain period would not have been accepted by a medical school.  This is not necessarily the case now and some medical schools are slowly resuming body donations, but the service may be restricted for some time.  

Each medical school has its own and common set of documented rules. With ever-changing regulation regarding the pandemic, contact your local medical school directly for up to date information.

*  Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/coroners-statistics-2019/coroners-statistics-2019-england-and-wales


List of medical schools
Human Tissue Authority  

Body donation in Scotland
Scottish Government

21 amazing things to do with your ashes
Before You Go Compare  

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About the author 

Kim Bird

Kim, the founder of Before You Go, is a funeral cost expert and regularly appears in the press, on TV and on radio. She began campaigning for greater funeral price transparency over 10 years ago. Kim is a member of Parliamentary Groups for funerals and bereavement.

In 2017, Kim was included in the Maserati 100 & The Sunday Times list of top 100 UK entrepreneurs for having a positive impact on society and her industry.

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