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Donate Your Body to Science: The Complete Guide

When you choose to donate your body to science, your donation is an incredible offering that can help research and discover medicine and science in Australia. The donated body, medically known as a cadaver, is used for medical research or student training.

Through several universities across Australia, body donation programs help train the next generation of doctors, nurses, medical scientists and surgeons.

Deciding to become a body donor is a personal choice and requires significant consideration to ensure you understand the emotional impact on yourself and your family.

In this complete guide, we discuss why you should donate your body to science, various universities that offer a body donation program and who is eligible to donate their body.

Why should you donate your body to science when you die?

Donating your body to science when you die is considered by many people to contribute to medical research and training helpfully. It can help train doctors, surgeons, medical scientists and other health-related professionals while also providing medical students with the best training and education.

Body donation can also help further medical and scientific research, potentially contributing to essential health discoveries that could help alleviate suffering and improve overall well-being.

Though furthering research is generally the primary motivator for donating, it also can eliminate funeral costs for your family after death. The University whose program you choose will typically pay for a simple burial or cremation once it has finished studying the body.

Who can donate their body to science?

Each program has specific eligibility and requirements for donation. The first step is to read about the programs available to you and check your eligibility. There are particular circumstances and medical conditions which prevent some universities from accepting a human body for donation.

Several conditions may automatically exclude you from donating your body to science, including:

  • Infectious diseases such as AIDS, hepatitis, Ebola, yellow fever, tuberculosis, etc.;
  • Health conditions that are poorly understood, including Alzheimer's or dementia
  • Being clinically obese or emaciated.

Before registering for a body donation program, it's best to confirm your eligibility.

How do you donate your body to science in Australia?

Unlike organ donation, in Australia, there is no single register for body donation. Instead, there are several universities across Australia that you can donate your body for science. To apply, you need to contact the University directly.

Here is a list of universities across Australia, with links and direct phone numbers to their body donation programs:

Sydney Body Donation

Melbourne Body Donation

Brisbane Body Donation

Canberra Body Donation

Perth Body Donation

Adelaide Body Donation

Tasmania Body Donation

Universities will only accept your body if you have previously completed and signed the donor offer forms. Your family can't donate your body on your behalf. The exact process required to donate your body to science will depend on the University you choose.

What happens after you die when you donate your body to medical science?

If you have applied to donate your body to science, the executor of your Will or your Next of Kin will need to notify the University you chose after death as soon as possible.

Once the body arrives at the University, they test for several diseases, including hepatitis, HIV, and tuberculosis. If the tests return a positive result on any disqualifying conditions, the body will be rejected and returned to the family. If the body is accepted, there is typically no further contact with the family.

They then embalm the body to prepare for storage. How the University decides to use the body will then depend on their research and training needs. One of the most common use's of a cadaver is to help students learn about human anatomy.

No matter how the University decides to use the body, they treat your remains with dignity, respect and anonymity. Depending on the University, they may retain your body for up to eight years. After this, your body will be cremated or buried according to your wishes.

What does it cost to donate your body to science?

Because you are donating for science or medical research, the University will typically help with any relevant expenses associated with your body donation. They're also responsible for a simple burial or cremation, as indicated by your preference on the consent forms.

Universities do not cover the cost of funeral services, urns or the collection of ashes from their facilities. Likewise, they don't cover death notices in newspapers or fees of plaques in a cemetery or crematorium.

When filling out the consent forms, you must be specific about what you would like done with your body after the University has concluded their research. In addition, the family must cover any wishes that are outside of the program.

If the University rejects your donation, your family will be responsible for transportation costs to return the body as well as the costs of any funeral arrangements.

Can the University reject your body?

Registering with a university donation program doesn't mean you're accepted. It's essential to be aware that the University could reject your body after death. Rejection can happen for a few reasons:

  • The death was outside the catchment area of the program
  • The universities facilities are at capacity
  • Your executor notified the University of the death too late
  • The organs are part of organ donation
  • An autopsy was performed

If the University rejects the body, they won't be liable to cover any financial costs your family would face.

Can you change your mind about body donation?

You may withdraw your registration to donate your body to science at any time by notifying the University. But, ultimately, your Next of Kin has the final say after you pass away and can object to your wish for body donation.

Final Thoughts

Even though choosing to donate your body to science is personal, it can significantly affect your loved ones. When making the decision, it's crucial to let your family know of your preferences. That way, they have time to process, prepare, and be more likely to honour your decision. To help you prepare your assets and estate before you die, start your Will today.

Disclaimer: The content of this blog is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. This blog should not be relied upon as legal, financial, accounting or tax advice.

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