Some people want to donate their organs or body parts for transplants. Others want their bodies to be used for research.
Donating your body is a very personal choice. Some people don’t want to do this or think about it when they are very ill. But if you do wish to donate organs, body parts, or your body, talk to your healthcare team. You need to give permission for this before you die.
It is also helpful to talk to your friends and family about this decision.
In England, by law, all adults are seen as organ donors when they die. But you may opt-out. Donating your body is not part of this system.
Telling your relatives
It's best to let your next of kin know about your wishes. This could be an upsetting conversation. If you can donate some parts of your body, these need to be removed soon after your death. So it would help to prepare your loved ones for this possibility. You could include your wishes in your will.
Donating organs or body parts for transplant
You might not be able to donate organs for transplant if you have active cancer. But it may be possible for people with certain types of cancers to donate after three years of treatment.
You might be able to donate parts of your eyes (the cornea) and some tissues. Your healthcare team or specialist nurse can answer your questions.
Donating your body for research
You can choose to donate your body for research. The final decision to accept your body for research or education purposes might not take place until after your death. If your body is accepted your next of kin might then need to fill out some forms. These forms might ask questions, such as how long your body can be used for.
You might want to discuss with your family whether your body should be returned to them for a private funeral. Or you could choose to have a memorial service instead. Most funeral directors will be able to help you with this.
Instead, the medical school receiving your body can arrange for a cremation, which your close family can attend.
Speak to your medical team about donating your body. You can also get advice from your nearest medical school or from The Human Tissue Authority.