What should happen to your body when you die?
Some will turn away and leave the choice to others. But this is personal, and one of the most difficult things for family or close friends to decide for you.
You are helping tremendously if you can make one or two simple choices.
First, do you want your body, or any part of it, to be donated to medical science or for transplant;
and second, would you prefer burial, cremation or something different?
Donating an organ or tissue can make a huge difference to someone else’s quality of life, and it may reassure you and those you leave behind to know some good has come of your death.
Only medical professionals can tell whether you are a suitable donor, and they cannot use any part of your body without your consent. You may have expressed your wishes in writing (by registering as a donor, or in your will or wishbook), or your family may agree that they know what you would have wanted.
You can register as a donor through the Organ Donor Register (Tel: 0300 123 123) and through your GP surgery, amongst others. It is wise to discuss your views with your next of kin too.
The number of patients awaiting donation of a life-saving organ far outstrips the availability of suitable donors, so the Government is seeking ways to ensure people think clearly about whether they would like to help. For more information see our Articles here.
The issue of organ and tissue donation raises many legitimate concerns, whether in terms of healthcare, religion or practicalities. NHS Blood and Transplant offers practical help and answers which may allay any concerns you or your relatives may have.
If you wish to donate your whole body for training and research you must complete a written form which is dealt with by your local medical school. The procedure is governed by the Human Tissue Authority and strict rules mean that no-one else can consent on your behalf. For a clear explanation of how to donate your body see this helpful guide from the Human Tissue Authority.
As more people suffer from brain-related illnesses such as Parkinson’s and Altzheimer’s disease there is a greater need for brain tissue from both sufferers and non-affected people for research into the diseases and their cures. You can make separate arrangements to donate your brain with the appropriate bodies through the HTA.
Whatever your choice, it helps to communicate your wishes to those nearest and dearest to you.