Body Donation

Body Donation

Bequest of bodies for anatomy - Information for potential donors and their next-of-kin/executors

The donation of your body is a most generous gift which is of great importance to teaching in this University’s medical school. It provides an invaluable training opportunity for trainee doctors, and qualified professionals who want to practice surgical techniques.

It is important that you give informed consent to donate your body for medical/anatomical examination, so please read this information carefully.

How do I donate my body for Medical/Anatomical Education and Research to the University of Aberdeen?

Please request three copies of the Declaration of Bequest form from the Bequest Administrator. The forms must be signed by you and by a witness in all the places indicated on the form. You should keep one copy for your records, give one copy to your next of kin/executor, and return the other to the Bequest Administrator who will then enter your name on the Bequest Register.  It is a good idea to let your GP know your wishes, too.

It is not possible to donate your body after death unless you have completed a Declaration of Bequest form. It is also possible to donate your body if you have put a signed and witnessed instruction in your Will to that effect, but it will cause delay if the Will is not to hand when needed. Therefore, we ask that you complete and return the Bequest form.

We strongly recommend that you discuss this matter with your next-of-kin. If your family are very much against the idea of you donating your body to Aberdeen University it might not be possible to proceed with the donation after your death.

What happens if I change my mind?

If you change your mind at any point, contact the Bequests Administrator and your name will be removed from the Bequest Register.

What happens when I die?

Your next of kin or executor must not make any arrangements to transport your body until Anatomy has confirmed acceptance.

Your next-of-kin, your executor or the attending doctor should telephone the Anatomy Office immediately on 01224 274320. The Anatomy facility is closed at weekends, on Bank and Public Holidays, and over the Christmas/New Year period. During this time, please contact Gordon and Watson, Funeral Directors on 01224 580377.  Gordon and Watson act for us and will advise.

We must receive a body within around 48 hours of death, and this means that we are unable to accept body donations during the Christmas and New Year period, or if death occurs on a Thursday or Friday before a holiday weekend. At these times, your next of kin or executor will need to make alternative funeral arrangements.

With the exception of the holidays noted in the paragraph above, we can make a decision regarding the suitability of each donation after we have managed to contact and speak to your attending doctor or GP. It is the responsibility of your next-of-kin or your executor to arrange for the body to be held in a suitable environment such as a hospital mortuary, or undertaker with refrigeration facilities, until a decision can be made on acceptance. It may not be possible to have the body moved until the medical certificate of the cause of death has been signed by the doctor, though.

We carefully consider every case; however the University may be unable to accept your body. Some of the medical conditions which will make your body unsuitable for anatomical/medical education and research are outlined below.

  • Post mortem/autopsy
  • Recent major surgery where wounds have not healed
  • Pressure sores and unhealed ulcers
  • Organ donation other than corneal transplant

 Some of the following conditions may make you unsuitable:

  • Infectious or transmittable diseases such as Hepatitis, HIV, Live TB, or MRSA
  • Jaundice
  • Overweight or obese (BMI of 30 or over)
  • Haemophilia
  • Advanced cancer
  • Some kinds of dementia (not diagnosed senile dementia)
  • Recent chemotherapy

No guarantee can be given that a bequest will be accepted so it is important to have other arrangements in place.

What happens if my body is rejected?

If we are unable to accept your body due to medical reasons then your next-of-kin or your executor will need to make suitable funeral arrangements. The University of Aberdeen is not liable for any financial contribution.

Occasionally we are unable to accept your body for logistical reasons.  If we have sufficient bodies to meet immediate requirements, we can offer to pass on cases to the other University Medical Schools/Anatomy Departments in Scotland. If one of the other Universities in Scotland is able to proceed with the donation, they will pay for uplift and transport of the body.  However, if they are unable to proceed then your next-of-kin or your executor will need to make suitable funeral arrangements.

**No guarantee can be given that a bequest will be accepted so it is important to have other arrangements in place

What happens if my body is accepted?

If the next-of-kin or your executor and other family members are happy to proceed with the donation, we will explain in detail what happens next. Once the Death Certificate has been signed by the attending doctor, we will arrange for our contracted Funeral Director to bring your body into Aberdeen University. However, if the person is outside the University’s catchment area (approximately Stonehaven to the south, Banchory to the west, and  Ellon to the north), then the next-of-kin or your executor must arrange for a local funeral director to bring the body in, and for the cost to come out of your personal estate.

Are there any costs to my family if the University accepts my body?

Once we have decided your body is an acceptable case for anatomical/medical education and research, we pay to bring the body into Aberdeen University and for the eventual cremation or burial, therefore, your family will not have the normal funeral expenses. However, if you live outside the University’s catchment area, the cost of coming into Aberdeen University will have to come out of your estate.

Will my next of kin or executor need to complete any Paperwork?

The Bequest administrator will write to your next-of-kin /executor to explain the paperwork which needs to be completed. Your next-of-kin or your executor must register the death in the normal way and supply the Bequest Administrator with the Certificate of Registration of Death (Form 14) and a copy of the Death Certificate Full Extract. The next-of-kin or your executor must also agree to complete essential paperwork, including the Aberdeen District Council Cremation Form and The Anatomy Act next-of-kin Form. These forms will be supplied by the Bequest Administrator.

How will my body be used by the University?

If you donate your body to Aberdeen University you will be treated with the greatest respect. Your body may be used for one or more of the following purposes.  We do not normally conduct research into specific diseases or medical conditions.

  • Anatomical Examination - this term describes the teaching of the structure and function of the human body to students or healthcare professionals.
  • Research - this term describes scientific studies which improve the understanding of the human body.
  • Education and training - these terms describe the training of healthcare professionals, usually those learning surgical techniques, as opposed to anatomical examination.

It may be useful to prepare images of parts of your body for teaching, training or research purposes. If you consent to this, you will not be identifiable in these images. If you do not wish to consent to the use of images you may indicate this on the Declaration of Bequest.

How long will my body be retained?

Your body will be retained for a maximum of three years, and a minimum of two months, depending on the nature of the examination. The University may wish to retain parts of your body beyond the three year period, to be used for continued educational and training purposes. This is permitted under the terms of the Anatomy Act.  If you do not wish this to happen it is important you indicate this on the Declaration of Bequest form.  We will only retain parts if permission has been given.

Can I choose to be buried or cremated?

We no longer offer burial as a choice due to lack of space. When examination of your body is complete, the University will organise a simple cremation at The Crematorium, Hazlehead in Aberdeen at no cost to your estate.  It is important that you and your next of kin understand that cremations are private, although friends and family are invited to a Memorial Service (below). If you have a family plot and/or you wish to have a private burial, you can indicate this on the Declaration of Bequest form. Your next of kin will be asked to make the necessary arrangements for collection and burial, and the University of Aberdeen is not liable for these costs.

Does the University hold an Annual Memorial Service?

The University holds an Annual Memorial Service in late March/early April to honour those who have donated their body to the University of Aberdeen in the previous year, to which friends and relations are invited. The service takes place in Kings College Chapel. The senior officials of the University of Aberdeen attend, along with the Provost and first year medical students who have especially benefitted from their studies in Anatomy.

What happens after cremation?

After cremation, your ashes can be scattered in the Garden of Remembrance or collected by the next-of-kin or your executor. This is discussed with the next-of-kin or your executor at the time of death, and we write out to them approximately two weeks before the cremation takes place. If the family do not want to be informed about the cremation we will respect their wishes also.

Is there a monument or other commemoration for family and friends to see?

There is a commemorative stone in the Garden of Remembrance, Hazlehead Crematorium, Aberdeen which honours those who ‘gave their bodies for the increase of knowledge and the advance of medicine’. The memorial stone is made out of local, red granite and can be seen at the Garden of Remembrance’s opening hours which are Monday to Sunday including public holidays - 9.00am to 4.00pm.

In addition to the memorial stone at Hazlehead Crematorium, there is a Book of Remembrance in which the names of all those who have donated their bodies for medical research are inscribed.  The Book is brought to the Annual Memorial Service for friends and family to see.  At all other times, the book is held within the Anatomy Department. Family and friends are welcome to come to visit us at the Suttie Centre to view it, but must make an advance request to the Bequest Administrator.

HeadstoneMemorian book

The Commemorative Stone at Hazlehead Crematorium and the Book of Remembrance.

Who should I contact for further information?

If you have any further queries please do not hesitate to contact our Bequest Administrator on 01224 274320 or email: