When Someone Passes Away
What to Do When Someone Dies
When the time comes, there are practical arrangements that need to be done in order to move forward with the funeral arrangements. This guide will provide you with a brief overview of what steps are to be taken and in what order.
1. How to attain the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death
You will need your loved one’s doctor to verify the cause of death. Once the doctor is satisfied that the cause of death is coherent, only then will a Medical Certificate of Cause of death be issued.
In the unlikely event that the cause of death is inconclusive or deemed suspicious by the doctor, the coroner’s office will be contacted to conduct an investigation into the cause of death. Once the coroner is involved, you will be unable to register the death until the coroner has issued reinforcing documentation. However, they will issue an interim death certificate to aid with processing the funeral arrangements.
2. How to register the death and get the Death Certificate
To register the death, the Medical Certificate fo Cause of Death need to be submitted to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages at the local registry office. They will ask for your loved one’s personal details, such as address, date of birth, and whether they were receiving benefits or a pension. It may be helpful to also provide any marriage certificates and your loved one’s NHS medical card, if attainable.
Once you have registered the death, you will be issued a Certificate for Cremation or Burial and the Death Certificate. Once issued you can then proceed with the funeral arrangements.
3. How to arrange the funeral with a funeral director
You can start to make arrangements at any point after the death of your loved one, but will not be able to have the funeral until the Certificate for Cremation or Burial and the Death Certificate are issued
Your funeral director will be able to clarify any answers or concerns you may have on the topic of the funeral service.
If you are considering cremation for your loved one, you can browse our crematoria directory and locate a crematorium near you.
If you need assistance with the first steps of making arrangements for a loved one who has passed away; you can contact our care team for help and advise. Simply message us on the chatbox on our website or call us on: 0808 196 2140
Obtaining a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death
This section is about the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death and how to obtain it.
If your loved one passed in a hospital and the doctor can be certain of the cause of death, you will then be issued the medical certificate of cause of death (MCCD). The majority of the time an envelope containing information about how to register the death will be given to you.
If your loved one passed peacefully at home and the death was expected, their GP may be able to issue the certificate, as long as they recently saw your loved one before passing. They may hand the certificate to you in person, or you may be asked to collect the certificate from the GP surgery. In many cases, the doctor will send the MCCD directly to the Registrar’s office, and the registrars will contact you once this is done.
1. What are the next steps
Once the MCCD has been issued, the next steps will be registering the death and obtaining the Death Certificate.
2. What happens when a certificate cannot be issued
In rare circumstances, a doctor will not be able to give you a MCCD. This may be because the circumstances surrounding the cause of death are undetermined.
When the doctor is unable to issue a MCCD they will immediately refer the case to the coroner. The coroner will then investigate the death. They may require a post-mortem or, if the cause is still deemed inconclusive, a coroner’s inquest. You will not be able to register the death until the coroner has completed their investigations. However, the coroner will usually issue an interim death certificate so that the funeral can go ahead and the probate has a chance to be granted.
Registering a Death
How to register a death and obtain the Death Certificate
Before a burial or cremation can take place, one needs to register their loved one’s death with the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. You will have five days to do this if you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, or eight days if you live in Scotland.
You should register your loved one’s passing at a registration office within the district where your loved one passed away. As the process can take up to half an hour, you may want to book an appointment in advance to avoid any issues. The registration of a death can be made by someone who was present at the death, a relative, or the person in charge of funeral arrangements.
1. What you will need when registering a death
To register a death, the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death needs to have been issued first and you will need to provide the following personal details about them:
Their full name
Their maiden name or any former names
Their last known address
Their place and date of birth
The place and date of death
The full name, date of birth and occupation of their spouse
Information about any benefits or state pension they had been receiving
You will also need to provide two forms of identification for your loved one and two for yourself. Having the following documents can help:
Council tax bill
Marriage or Civil Partnership Certificate
NHS medical card
Proof of address
2. What are the Death Certificate and the Certificate for Burial or Cremation
Once you have registered the death of your loved one, you will be issued the Death Certificate and the Certificate for Cremation or Burial. You will need to pay a small fee which varies depending on your location in the UK. Death certificates cost £11 in England and Wales, £10 in Scotland and £8 in Northern Ireland. The Certificate for Cremation or Burial is free.
These documents are needed before you can proceed any further with the funeral arrangements. Only after the funeral director is shown these documents can the funeral service take place. Under some instances, when your loved one’s death is being investigated by a coroner, the coroner may issue an interim death certificate so that the funeral can proceed.
Be aware that one copy of these documents will not be sufficient when dealing with your loved one’s estate. No photocopies are accepted, only official copies will be accepted. The later you order the death certificates, the higher the fees will be, so you should consider this when deciding how many copies to prepare when you register your loved one’s death.
Choosing a Funeral Director
This is a guide to the services offered by funeral directors, including advice on finding the right funeral director for you and information on trade associations.
1. What is a funeral director?
A funeral director can help you arrange the funeral service and cremation or burial for your loved one when they die, allowing you to focus on remembering them. Many funeral directors can also arrange natural burials, celebrations of life and any other personal touches you require. A good funeral director will also provide sympathetic and respectful advice and support in every aspect of looking after your loved one when they pass, from registering their death to arranging a memorial.
Funeral directors can be especially helpful if you don’t know what a funeral entails. This is why having all this advice and support is so important in helping you choose the right funeral director.
2. Why should you take time to consider which funeral director is right for you?
Many people assume that they need to choose a practical funeral director immediately, but it is important to remember that, unless you have cultural or religious requirements, there is actually no need to rush the arrangement of your loved one’s funeral.
The range of services and costs offered by funeral directors can be very diverse and confusing, so taking the time to compare a range of funeral directors will ensure you make the right decision and arrange the send off your loved one would have wanted. Most funeral directors offer a wide range of different packages that include particular services and products.
Many funeral directors now offer a simple funeral package which usually includes the services of the funeral director, care of the person who has died, a coffin, and a direct cremation with no service. This provides a more cost-effective option for those families that have a tight budget. For the most part, any services provided by a third-party, such as floral arrangements, are likely to be an additional cost.
More expensive funeral packages might include additional transport for the funeral procession and third-party services, as well as higher-quality coffins.
It would be ideal to choose a funeral director that is a member of the National Association for Funeral Directors (NAFD) or the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF). These organisations ensure that all of their members adhere to strict codes of conduct, complaints-procedures and price transparency policies that guarantee you a high level of service.
3. A step-by-step guide for choosing a funeral director
Firstly, locate funeral directors in your area
By identifying all of the funeral directors in your area and the different services, packages and prices that they can offer, allows you to see the range of choice available to you.
3a. Decide the type of funeral you know your loved one would have wanted.
If you know that your loved one would have preferred a natural burial and green funeral then you can focus on funeral directors who provide primarily these services. It can be helpful to find out more about burials, cremations, green funerals and celebrations of life before searching for a funeral director so you know what it is you are looking for.
3b. Determine the services that you would like a funeral director to help you with
As well as arranging funerals, funeral directors can also help you complete paperwork, such as registering a death, organising a memorial for your loved one, such as choosing a headstone or memorial jewellery and find bereavement support. If you would prefer to accomplish these by yourself, you need to verify that you are not paying for a package that includes services you won’t be needed. If you would like some help with these things it is also important to know that your chosen funeral director can provide it.
3c. Read reviews of funeral directors
If you have never needed to arrange a funeral for a loved one, it may be difficult to know how to decide if a funeral director is right for you. Reading reviews of funeral directors written by other bereaved people may give you a little more insight.
3d. Arrange a phone call with funeral directors before deciding to arrange a funeral with them
Comparing funeral directors and reading reviews of their services and facilities is usually very helpful, but it is still a good idea to discuss your options with them over the phone. Most good funeral directors will be more than happy to discuss your options.
Here are some questions you might want to consider asking a funeral director before making a decision.
3e. What questions you should ask a funeral director:
- What type of funerals can you arrange?
- Do you provide funeral packages, or is everything arranged separately?
- What is the cost of your funeral packages?
- What is included in your funeral packages; do you offer a “direct funeral” and how does it differ from other packages?
- Are your funeral packages better value than arranging everything separately?
- Can additional options, such as alternative funeral transport, be added to a package?
- How much of the cost of the funeral goes to florists or any other third parties?
- Can we purchase coffins, flowers and other elements from providers we are acquainted with or do we have to use your suppliers?
- Do we have to pay a deposit and if so, how much is it?
- When do we have to pay the full balance of the funeral upfront?
- What happens to our deposit if we decide to use a different funeral director at any given point?
- What happens if you cannot fulfil your obligations, or have to change the date of the funeral due to unforeseen circumstances; can we choose a different funeral director and be reimbursed for the deposit?
- Have you had any requests similar to ours which you then arranged?
- Are there any aspects of arranging this funeral that might be a challenge for you, or that there might be issues with?
- Can you suggest alternative ideas that might be more manageable, affordable, and in accordance with our loved one’s wishes?
4. Where can you find a funeral director?
You can compare funeral directors in your local area and read independent, verified reviews of their services on Funeral Guide. Once you have chosen a funeral director, you should schedule a phone call with them to discuss their services before asking them to collect your loved one.
You can find more help and advice on what to do when someone dies, arranging a funeral, managing an estate, and bereavement support in Neo Cremation’s Help and Advice section.
What To Do When Someone Passes away At Home
This is a guide of what to do when someone passes away at home, what your next steps will be.
1. What happens when someone Passes Away at home?
When someone passes away at home and the death is anticipated, their GP should be called and informed. If someone dies at home unexpectedly you will need to contact the emergency services directly. Below, are the questions this section will address:
- What do you do when someone dies at home and you were expecting it?
- What do you do when someone dies at home unexpectedly?
- What do you need to do next?
2. What do you do when someone passes away at home and you were expecting it?
When someone dies in their own home and it was anticipated, you should call their GP or the nearest doctor. In most scenarios when someone dies at home and it is expected the doctor can provide a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death confirming the cause of death directly. You can find more information regarding obtaining a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death in our guide.
Your funeral director will be more than capable to advise you on registering a death and every aspect for what you need when someone dies.
Whether you choose to keep and care for your loved one at home or you would prefer your funeral director taking care of them until the funeral, is up to you.
3. What do you do when someone dies at home unexpectedly?
It is incredibly important that the very first thing you do when someone dies within their own home is call 999 and ask for the ambulance services and police immediately. When someone passes at home unexpectedly, there is a higher chance that the death will be followed by a coroner’s inquest. Registering the death will not be possible until the coroner has confirmed the cause of death. This may set back the funeral, but your funeral director will be there to help you through every step of the journey.
4. What are the next steps?
When someone has passed at home and their cause of death has been confirmed by a doctor or coroner, you will need to register their passing. You must register a death within eight days if you are in Scotland and five days if you are in England, Northern Ireland or Wales.
You won’t receive a Certificate for Cremation or Burials until you have completely registered the death. You can always reach out to your funeral director and they will be able to help you with making sure you have the right forms filled out and submitted to the appropriate authorities.
The government’s Tell Us Once service allows you to alert every relevant government department of your loved one’s death, in one phone call.
Once you have submitted the forms for registering the death, you can go about arranging a funeral for them. The person who has just passed may have left instructions in the form of funeral wishes for what kind of funeral service they wanted when the time eventually came. If they had a funeral plan arranged that would not only give guidance on the type of funeral they wanted but also provide financial means to arrange the funeral.
What to Do When Someone Passes Away Abroad
This section provides information on how to repatriate a loved one back into the UK. This guide will help you understand the ins-and-outs of what to do when a loved one dies abroad and how the repatriation process will work.
1. First thing is to notify the British authorities
If you are with your loved one when they die abroad, you should contact the nearest British embassy, Consulate or High Commission. They will be able to offer advice and help you with the arrangements. If you are on a package holiday, tour operators or representor may be able to put you in touch with the correct authorities.
If you are at home in the UK when a loved one dies abroad, you may be informed of the death by the British Consulate or a member of your local police force. If you are informed by someone else, be sure to contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to seek help and guidance. FCO bereavement brochures provide comprehensive information on legal procedures and services available after a death in any country in the world.
2. Registering the death
You must register the death in the country where your loved one died. The British Consulate can help you do this.
The next step is to register the death with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as well. You can obtain detailed information on how to register the death by filling in a short form online.
When registering a death you will need to provide personal information for yourself and your loved one, including passport number, date of issue and place of issue.
3. You need to check for repatriation insurance
Before commencing the repatriation process, it is important to check whether your loved one had taken out travel insurance. Most travel insurance policies include repatriation insurance, which could help with upcoming fees and other expenses.
If your loved one was on a package holiday, the tour operator will be able to debrief you with details of their travel insurance and any repatriation cover.
4. Start the repatriation process
If you are thinking of holding a funeral for your loved one back home, your loved one needs to be repatriated. The following documents are needed for the repatriation process:
A death certificate from the country where the passing occurred
Permission to repatriate your loved one from the country
A certificate for embalming the deceased
When a foreign death certificate is issued in a language other than English, it will need to be professionally translated to be accepted by the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages within the UK. Without this professionally translated document, your loved one will not be able to be buried or cremated in the UK.
A coroner may be contacted to examine your loved one once they return to the UK. This is a common procedure when a death happens unexpectedly abroad, and it is often conducted only to verify the cause of death.
In most cases, you will be asked to submit the professionally translated foreign death certificate to the registry office closest to where you plan to have the funeral ceremony. They are able to issue you with a certificate that allows a burial to take place. If you want a cremation, you will need a Home Office cremation order. The paperwork for a cremation order is usually available from the crematorium of your choosing.
Once you have these documents allowing cremation or burial, you can then proceed with the funeral arrangements.
5. Making funeral arrangements
Many funeral directors can help with the repatriation process, as well as the funeral arrangements. Some funeral directors specialise in repatriation and have years under their belts of experience bringing loved ones back home.
Compare funeral directors in your local area for professional help with the entire process.
If your loved one wanted to be buried or cremated outside of the UK, find out how you can repatriate your loved one to another country.
What to Do When A Child Passes
Information on what to do after the loss of a child
If you are reading this because your baby or child has died, we are incredibly sorry for your loss. We hope these articles will be useful to you in finding guidance in this situation, as well as to the loved ones who are supporting you.
Although it will be difficult to think about, there are a few agencies that you may need to notify about your child’s death. A family member or a good friend may be able to aid you in contacting and notifying the people you need to tell.
Here are a few details about some of the agencies you may encounter within the next few weeks or so. At the bottom of the page, you’ll find links to articles about help, bereavement support and ways to cope with grief for parents and families who have recently lost a child.
1. Registering your child’s passing
Whenever anyone passes on, their death has to be registered. We will explain how to do this in more detail, in our guide to registering a death and this is something that either parent can do. When a baby dies shortly after birth, both their birth and their death are registered. This includes stillbirth, the term used when a child passes 24 weeks or later into a mother’s pregnancy, will also be registered.
2. How to contact the Child Benefit Office
If you are claiming Child Benefits, the Child Benefit Office needs to be notified immediately when a child dies. In most cases, Child Benefit payments will continue to be paid up to eight weeks after a child has died, but parents or guardians are asked to notify the Child Benefit Office as soon as they are able to do so. This is in order to prevent the distress of overpayments being claimed back by the agencies, at a later date.
Although most Child Benefit payments usually continue for eight weeks after the date of a child’s death, the circumstances may differ slightly if your son or daughter’s 20th birthday falls within this period. In such cases, Child Benefit payments cease from the first Monday following their 20th birthday.
If your child was newborn when she or he passed, you may still claim and receive the eight weeks of Child Benefit payments. If this is something that would be helpful to you and your loved ones, you’ll have to apply within three months of your baby’s death. Sadly it won’t be possible for you to claim this, if you are a parent of a baby who was stillborn.
3. Notifying the Tax Credit Office
Another authority that will need to be notified if your child has passed is the Tax Credit Office. This is primarily because they may need to adjust your claim if your family receives Tax Credits.
When a child passes, the Tax Credit Office asks that they are informed about the situation within a month of the death. This is to ensure that families like yours in similar situations receive the money they are entitled to and also help avoid the ache of any credits being claimed back by the office at a later date.
Tax credits continue to be paid to families for up to eight weeks after a child passes and bereaved parents of newborn babies can also register a claim for tax credits covering the same period. The Tax Credit Office enquiry line will help you find out more information about making a claim. Unfortunately, you are unqualified to apply, if your baby died before he or she was born.
4. Sure Start Maternity Grants
Bereaved parents of newborns who qualify for the Sure Start Maternity Grant, are entitled to receive this payment.
It’s a one-off payment of £500 available to parents of first-born babies who have already been claiming certain benefits. The grant is occasionally paid to parents who already have children but are expecting multiple births, such as twins or triplets. To make your claim, you need to register within three months of your baby’s birthday.
5. What if your child had a Child Trust Fund
Between 2002 and 2011, the Government allocated newborn babies a Child Trust Fund between £250 and £500, as a locked-away savings legacy for when they enter adulthood at 18.
This creates part of a child’s estate – the legal definition of the belongings someone leaves when they pass on. Unless they were married, a child’s estate is inherited by their next-of-kin, in most cases, their parents. To access the savings and close this, or any other savings account your child has, the bank or building society will ask you to provide personal details, which will include a copy of your child’s death certificate.
Child Trust Funds were set up with the intention of providing children with a small sum to spend or start saving with, when they eventually turn 18. When a child is terminally ill, it’s possible for them to access their own savings early so they can do this. If you are the registered contact for the savings account, HM Revenue and Customs has a terminal illness early access form in which you can help your child apply to receive their Trust Fund savings.
6. About bereavement, maternity and paternity leave and pay
When a newborn passes or a baby is stillborn, her or his bereaved parents are entitled to full paid maternity or paternity leave. However, currently, it is at the discretion of employers to offer employees paid (or unpaid) time off from work for parents coping with the death of an older child or other loved ones. Bereaved working-class parents and some MPs have been campaigning for statutory bereavement pay to support parents when a child passes.
If you are finding it difficult to cope with everyday tasks, you may be able to receive Statutory Sick Pay for time off work. Although Government guidelines do not classify bereavement as an “incapacity”, they suggest that employers should consider the relationship of the bereaved and the shock, anxiety and depression suffered as a result of someone’s death as an illness that’s an acceptable reason for paid leave.
Employers are entitled to grant compassionate leave if you have lost a baby due to a late miscarriage. There is no law enforcing compassionate leave, so this will be up to your employer. You may also be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay covering time off to recover.
Parents who were expecting a baby of which passed before the 24th week of pregnancy, are not eligible to claim maternity or paternity benefits. If you have already made claims for a Sure Start Maternity Grant or Maternity Allowance, you’ll need to get in touch with Jobcentre Plus to update them about your updated situation.
7. What is Bereavement support?
There are many charities and organisations that provide counselling organisations, listening services, virtual tea times, helplines and peer-to-peer support, for parents and loved ones who have lost a child.
If you are in the position to use them, we have a selection of guides in helping the bereaved that you might find helpful. In them, you can discover more about the ways you can help someone who is grieving the loss of a child, grandchild, brother, sister or any loved ones.
Everyone has a different way of coping with grief, but some people find that it can be helpful to understand bereavement better, as a way of coping with the emotions that they, or someone they are supporting, is enduring.
Next of Kin: What You Need to Know
It’s usually the next of kin that is in charge of the funeral arrangements when someone passes away. But what does ‘next of kin’ actually mean and who has the responsibility when someone dies?
1. What does ‘next of kin’ mean?
Next of kin generally refers to the person who had, or has, the closest relationship with a person who’s in hospital, or who has just passed. Within the United States, next of kin relationships are established by law – with a surviving spouse at the top of the list – but there is no next of kin status defined in UK law as of right now, so this can be open to interpretation.
Commonly, this is something that families arrange between themselves, but at a highly emotional time when someone has died, identifying the next of kin status may sometimes be complicated by family ties, familial situations and relationships.
There are a number of things you are able to do if you would like a certain person you consider to be next of kin to be there for you by your side when you pass away. This is something that you may also want to talk about with your loved ones, at any stage of your life.
2. How does the NHS identify the ‘next of kin’?
When the next of kin is recorded on a hospital form it means the person chosen by the patient or identified as the person who has been closest to them.
If someone is well enough to identify their own next of kin on the hospital admission form, they will be able to choose anyone they desire. It could be a close friend or spouse, and not necessarily their closest blood relative.
If someone is unconscious or incapable to respond, the hospital may define next of kin on the basis of the family members they are able to contact at the time.
3. What are the next of kin’s rights at the hospital?
Next of kin are the people who are kept directly informed of a loved one’s treatment and care. They can’t generally make decisions over a loved one’s treatment in a hospital or hospice – this is between the trained medical staff and the patient and, if the patient is unable to communicate, a clinical matter.
The NHS has a free-to-download Next of Kin Card, which you can fill in and carry with you at all times. You can provide details of the person who you would prefer to be contacted first if you were admitted to, or had died in hospital.
The person who you have identified as your next of kin will be informed about your care, consulted over organ and tissue donorship and about any post-mortem procedures necessary, as well as making the arrangements for you to be taken into a funeral director’s care.
If you are intimidated about decisions that may be made towards the end of your life, you may wish to nominate a person of your next of kin to be involved in decisions regarding your medical care, in a legal document known as a ‘Lasting Power of Attorney’.
You can also ensure that you receive – or do not receive – certain life-prolonging treatments in a hospital, by making a living will, commonly known as an advanced care plan. This is a legally binding document that ensures that the hospital or hospice staff are aware of your treatment wishes if you become unable to communicate with them.
Alternatively, you could think about writing an advance statement, which, although is not legally binding, could inform and reassure your next of kin about your end of life needs.
4. Who is titled the next of kin when someone dies?
Although the next of kin are not identified in UK law, it’s usually a spouse or life partner, child, parent, or any other close relative that makes the funeral arrangements when someone passes.
Anyone can arrange a funeral for someone but this person takes responsibility for settling the bill – which may be covered by the money someone had left in their estate.
If you, or the person who has died, has written a will, then it’s possible to detail exactly who you wish to carry out your funeral arrangements, as next of kin.
If you’ve not detailed this, then it’s down to the person named as the will’s executor, and they will carry out the arrangements and also settle the bill from your estate. It’s not uncommon for the person or people you consider to be next of kin, to be named as an executor. For more information regarding the subject, take a look at our guide to managing an estate.
If you anticipate that there may be family differences over who takes responsibility for the funeral then it’s worth considering writing a will, funeral plan, or pre-paid funeral plan, to avoid differences during an emotional time.
Although not legally binding, making a list of funeral wishes is never a bad idea. We have a whole host of resources which would help inform any choice you might make for your end of life plans. Our guide to burials and to cremations are great places to start researching.
5. Do the next of kin have to pay for the funeral?
It may have been a couple of years since family members lost touch with a close family member when they are dying, or die.
When someone dies alone, without family or friends to claim them, the hospital or local authority will begin the process of tracking down and contacting the next of kin.
The objective is to identify and inform close family members of the person’s death, and if the person did not leave a will, to identify who will take responsibility for organizing the funeral.
A spouse, or spouse that the person was separated, but not divorced, from – children or parents, could be traced as next of kin.
In these circumstances, it is possible for the next of kin to not claim responsibility for the person who has died.
When a person is unclaimed by next of kin, or has no next of kin to be found, the local authority that oversees the place where the person died, will arrange a public funeral for them, sometimes also known as a pauper’s funeral.
Facing funeral costs that were unexpectedly placed upon you can be difficult for families who are traced as next of kin in this way. In circumstances where families waive responsibility for making the funeral arrangements, they will still generally be informed about when and where the funeral will take place.
If it turns out that the person left property or savings, their funeral costs will be recovered from said estate.
6. The next of kin and inheritances
If someone writes a will before they die, they have the option to leave their money and assets to whomever they like.
Dying without writing a will is known as dying intestate, there is a defined order of next of kin relationships that determine how the estate will be received or divided out.
Civil partners and spouses are defined as next of kin when someone dies intestate. This applies even if a couple was living apart, but not legally separated. Civil partners and spouses will inherit all of the person’s personal belongings, the first £250,000 of their estate, and a half share of any other wealth in the estate.
Children and grandchildren follow the order of precedence in terms of next of kin when someone dies intestate, followed by further blood relatives.
Surviving long-term life partners, who are not married or in a civil partnership, are not recognised as next of kin – and cannot inherit under the rules of intestacy. Neither can in-laws.
Donating Your Body to Science
This guide explains how to donate your body to medical or scientific research. If you decide you would like to donate your body for scientific purposes when you die, it’s something you’ll need to plan for.
Body donations for anatomical examination are essential for the education of future healthcare professionals, in scientific research and in improving medical procedures.Your body could potentially be used to teach medical students how the body functions and is structured, the development of surgical techniques or procedures, or other scientific studies.
1. Can anyone donate my body to science when I die?
Unlike organ and tissue donations, which next of kin can consent to when someone dies, donating your body to science isn’t as straightforward as it seems when arranging for someone to collect it.
Firstly, only you can consent to your body being donated for scientific purposes – and you’ll first need to have contacted a local medical school directly, well in advance of your death, to guarantee that they will accept you as a potential body donor.
Leaving a body to science involves entering into a written agreement with a medical or scientific institute, which must be signed by you and witnesses. Although there is no upper age limit for body donations, you must be over the age of 17 to be considered as a body donor.
After you have signed the necessary consent forms with your medical school of preference, you should inform your family, friends and GP of your recent decision. A copy of the consent form should also be kept with your will at all times.
2. How can I donate my body to science?
The first and most important step in donating your body to science is to contact a local medical school or facility for further information.
The Human Tissue Authority (HTA) organization is responsible for licensing and inspecting the medical schools, hospitals and other scientific facilities that accept body donations.
They have a useful list of medical schools, which you can use to find a suitable institution.
You can obtain information about medical schools in Scotland where you can donate your body to science, on the Scottish Government’s website.
3. What happens to a body donated once to a medical institute?
The institute you’ve agreed to donate your body to, will provide instructions and details about who your next of kin should contact when you pass.
When a donor body arrives at a medical school, it’s cared for and embalmed by a technician.
Sometimes, certain organs or body parts will be removed and dissected in order to expose bones, tissue or tendons for studying.
Donor bodies may be kept for up to three years by the medical schools.
4. Can a donor body be rejected?
There are occasions when medical schools are unable to accept body donations.
Terms can vary according to the medical schools and certain medical or physical conditions may prevent your body from being accepted for donation. You may be advised of this when you decide to donate your body.
A donor body should be transported to the facility as soon as possible after the death. A public holiday, for instance, could mean too long a delay between a death, and the facility being able to receive the body and prepare it for future use.
Other reasons why a donated body might be rejected include certain pre-existing medical conditions and if a post-mortem examination has been carried out.
5. Can I be a body donor and an organ donor?
It is indeed possible to register as both an organ donor and a body donor.
However, if your organs or tissue were removed for transplant when you died, it’s likely that your body will be unfit for medical research.
If your organs were not removed for transplant when you died, you may have a chance of being accepted as a body donor by your chosen medical school.
You or your family may need to liaise with a funeral director to transport your body to the facility or be happy to share or cover the transport costs.
It’s incredibly important to check with your chosen medical school to see what costs are covered. Donating your body to science is an altruistic gift and is not something that you or your family will be rewarded for.
6. Can a funeral take place if I donate my body to science?
Many people choose for their families to hold a memorial service or celebration of life, after their body has been donated to science.
Donor bodies may be kept for between two and three years by medical schools, who will then usually arrange for the body to be cremated at the cost of the medical school.
If your loved ones want to hold a private funeral service or ceremony, they will then be responsible for the costs.
They may wish to arrange for a funeral director to come and collect your body if they would prefer to make their own bespoke funeral arrangements for you. You may want to make financial arrangements in advance to help cover these costs, by, for instance, taking out a funeral plan.
Many medical schools hold annual memorials and thanksgiving services to honour those who had made the decision for a body donation.
7. Can I donate my body to a body farm?
Body farms, more properly known as human taphonomy facilities, are restricted areas where human cadavers are used in the development of forensic sciences.
There are nine body farms located around the world, where bodies are inhumed or left exposed to the elements, to research how they decay and give scientists greater insight into how causes of death can be identified.
Although to this day there is no such facility as yet in the UK, a number of scientists in the UK have supported decisions for a body farm in the UK.
8. How do I donate my body to be put on display?
Anatomist Dr Gunther von Hagens’ Body Worlds museums and touring exhibitions have attracted and intrigued millions of people around the world over the past 25 years.
The scientist has perfected a technique called Plastination, using a polymer solution to preserve the donated human cadavers.
The donor bodies are displayed to reveal how our muscles, bones and tissues function, as well as the overall structure of our body, when we are at work, rest or play.
Body Worlds has more than 18,000 people registered to donate, primarily from Germany, but some from further astray in Europe. Further information in English can be obtained from Dr von Hagens’ Plastination Institute.
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