Body Donor Program

A unique gift

People who donate their bodies for anatomical examination and/or medical research make an invaluable contribution to the advancement of medical knowledge.

It is a unique gift that helps to promote health and alleviate suffering within the community — a gift that is greatly appreciated by medical researchers, teachers and students alike.

The University of New England offers a Body Donor Program to the public to help train doctors, surgeons, medical scientists, and other health-related professionals, and, provide our medical students with the best possible education and training.

To receive further information, please contact:

Email: anatomydonor@une.edu.au
Phone: 02 6773 3087 (Press “2” for general enquiries)

Postal Address:
School of Rural Medicine
University of New England
Armidale NSW 2351

To notify us of the death of a registered donor, please contact:

Phone: 02 6773 3087 (Press “1” for urgent calls)

UNE Body Donor Program Information

The following provides information on the UNE Body Donor Program and includes instructions on how to register as a body donor. This information is correct as of June 2019 but is subject to change without notice.

UNE body donation and use

What does the university do?

We teach our students to understand the inner workings of the human body including the brain, heart, limbs and other organs. Through a process of preservation and dissection we are able to reach and potentially separate internal organs in order to further understand their intricate and complex form and function.

This process enables them to not only learn human anatomy but train them to be future surgeons, physicians, obstetricians, general practitioners, nurses and other allied health professionals.

For further information, please contact the Body Donor Program on (02) 6773 3087.

“Thank you so much for being so generous in this donation. Anatomy is a fundamental part of our learning and this resources is invaluable.”

- Third year medical student, 2018

How long will the University keep my body?

Under the Anatomy Act (1977) and the Human Tissue and Anatomy Legislation Amendment Act (2003), the University is legally allowed to retain your body for teaching and research purposes for four years. The University may apply to the Anatomy Inspector (NSW Department of Health) for an extension of the retention period up to a maximum of an additional four years. The University of New England, in most cases, will apply for the extension of the retention period in order to maximise the use of such an educationally valuable donation.

The University will dispose of your body at a time no longer than 8 years from your date of death. Occasionally, anatomical specimens may be kept indefinitely for teaching purposes, provided written consent has been given by the deceased prior to death.

You are encouraged to inform your family as to the length of your donation.

What happens when the university has finished studying my body?

When the University has completed anatomical examination of your body (which may take up to eight (8) years), your body will be cremated. Costs of cremation will be borne by the University, with your ashes returned to your next of kin or scattered in the Memorial Garden at Piddingtons Funerals, Armidale, NSW, according to your wishes. Costs associated with any additional services will be a private arrangement between your next-of-kin and the provider of the service.

What is ‘anatomy research’?

The human body is an intricate and very complex structure. Some areas of the body, like the brain, have not yet been fully understood and need to be studied further. To achieve this understanding, researchers study your body/ organs/ tissues. Researchers may use your body to invent new surgical approaches, test imaging techniques and analyse human tissues microscopically. These innovations may improve medical and health treatments, saving countless lives. New findings will be shared among scientists within the scientific community by publishing in journal articles. These researchers may be funded by the university or by external organisations.

Will my body be used for teaching or research?

Most bodies are used for teaching. Some bodies are used for research to advance our medical and scientific knowledge, or to study new surgical or clinical techniques. When you give consent, you can select whether you would like your body to be used for teaching only, research only, or either.

Will my personal information be disclosed in the research findings?

No. Any results obtained from research conducted on your body, and/or tissue, will be grouped with those of other donors for the purposes of report generation. No person or persons will be identifiable from reporting of research findings.

Who can donate?

Can a person be too old to donate his or her body?

No, old age is not a factor that we take into account when accepting a body. Anyone who is willing to donate their body may do so, however there are conditions where someone may not be able to donate their body to UNE’s body donor program (see Conditions of Acceptance).

Donors must be 18 years of age, or older, to complete the consent form to donate their body into the program. The University of New England’s does not accept anyone under 18 years of age. Currently, this includes miscarriages and stillborn foetuses as our facilities are not equipped to preserve and retain them.

Can I donate someone else's body, such as my wife's or my husband's?

A person who has legally been given Power of Attorney for the donor is able to sign donation papers during the donors’ life. However, UNE does not accept donors where the senior next of kin fills the body donor forms after the grantor has passed away.

Procedure – prior to death

What arrangement should I make if I am admitted into a hospital or any type of care facility prior to my death?

If you are admitted into a hospital, move to a retirement community, a nursing home, or any other type of care facility, it is recommended that a copy of the “Offer of Remains for Anatomical Examination” form be placed on your chart or care plan. When death occurs, the University should be notified AS SOON AS POSSIBLE by phoning the UNE Body Donor Program on (02) 6773 3087. If your body is deemed suitable, and the donation accepted, arrangements will then be made to receive the body into our program.

Procedure – after death

What is the procedure upon the death of the donor?

After you pass away, your immediate next of kin, executor, guardian, Power of Attorney, or medical staff member should notify the Body Donor Program AS SOON AS POSSIBLE by calling the UNE Body Donor Program on (02) 6773 3087 (any time of day). UNE asks for body donors to be at UNE within 15 hours of death – so please call to report a donor’s passing as soon as possible at any time of day or night in order to be considered for body donation.

If your body is deemed suitable and the donation accepted, the body will be collected and transported to the University by UNE’s nominated Funeral Director. The embalming process will be performed at UNE to preserve the body’s tissues so it may be useful for years to come. Your body will then be retained in storage until required for teaching or research purposes.

What if I die on a weekend or holiday?

UNE may accept donors on weekends or public holidays, however it is dependent on staff and funeral director availability. UNE cannot guarantee that it may be able to accept on any given day, hence it is always best to call and check whether the University is able to accept.

Is it possible for an ambulance service, or even my family, to deliver my body to the University?

No, NSW state law requires a licensed funeral director to conduct all body transportations. All donors must be transported in a professional and ethical manner in vehicles equipped with proper mortuary transportation systems.

Will my family receive a report of your findings?

No. We do not conduct autopsies, nor will specific reports regarding your body be prepared. Bodies are used anonymously in education and research, and no record of the findings will be kept by students. If your body is utilized in anatomical or pathological research, scientific reports may be published in appropriate journals. However, at all times your particular results will remain anonymous.

Inform/ consent

Do I need to inform anyone of my intention to bequeath my body?

It is strongly advised that you inform your next of kin or designated responsible party of the arrangements you have made. You may also choose to inform other family members, your doctor and solicitor of your wishes.

Is it essential to include my bequest in my will?

You do not need to include your body bequest in your will, as your will may not be read in time for delivery of your body to the University. It is more important to have your instructions readily available on a wallet donation card (or donation forms) provided by the School of Rural Medicine, and have your NOK fully aware of your intentions. However, should you also wish to include the donation in your will, you may include a simple declaration stating “After my death I wish, and consent to, my body being used for anatomical examination and for the removal of tissue from my body for teaching and research purposes and I confirm that my consent has not been withdrawn or revoked by me.”

Please note that it is not sufficient to just include this statement in your will. You are still required to formally apply to the University, as described above, in order to formalise the bequest.

If a bequest is made and the NOK has a change of mind later, can the gift be withdrawn?

If a living registered donor or their next-of kin/ executor no long wishes to donate their body, please inform us in writing and we will remove all of your records.

If the body has been bequeathed to the university and the next-of-kin/ executor no longer wishes for their relative/ friend/ client to donate their body, please let us know immediately by phoning us on (02) 6773 3087. We wish to respect the wishes of both donors and those who survive them, however these may not always align. Therefore, it is important to communicate your wishes to those who survive you whilst you are still alive.

Expenses

The University will assume all costs for the transport of the donor’s body to the University of New England, within a reasonable distance from Armidale (up to 300km from UNE).

PLEASE NOTE: Any initial transport from the place of death to a local Funeral Home will be the responsibility of the estate of the donor.

In the event of your death occurring at a considerable distance (300-400km) from the University of New England where the travel time and transport cost may be considerable, your estate may be asked to contribute to the cost of the transport expenses. This estimated expense would be less than $1000.

The costs to the family, or to the estate, will be:

  • a formal Death Certificate which can be obtained from the State Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages – it is the responsibility of the family to apply for a Death Certificate;
  • a Cremation Certificate which is provided by the certifying Doctor;
  • any transport costs from the place of death to a local Funeral Home, or excess distance charges; and
  • any memorial service, should your next-of-kin wish to have one.

Will any payment be received for the body?

No payment may be made by the University to the donor, or any other party, in connection with a body donation.

Will any payment be received if my body is used for research?

No payment may be made by the University to the donor, or any other party, in connection with a body being used for research.

“Your kind donation is invaluable to our learning.”

- First year medical student, 2018

Can I make a donation to the University or include a donation as part of my will?

This is not expected of you although the University would be most grateful for such additional generosity. Should a donor wish to include a bequest in his/her will to cover these costs, or to support various research programs, contact the Finance department of UNE at 02 5773 2870. For more information and visit the donations website at https://www.une.edu.au/alumni/give-to-une.

Memorial, services and appreciation

Is there a memorial service for the donors?

Yes. The University will hold a donor recognition gathering near its memorial garden and bird bath once every two years. Invitations and details of this ceremony are posted out to the next-of-kin of current and past body donors for each ceremony.

These services will be planned with attendees from regional areas in mind – that is, future ceremonies will endeavour to be held during the middle to late part of the day and on a weekend to allow for regional attendees time to travel.

What other aspects of memorialisation are there?

The UNE Body Donor Program has a memorial book which records the names of all of our body donors. This is a custom-made book made from papyrus. The donors’ names are written in by a professional calligrapher. This book is only on display at the memorial ceremony and only viewed by ceremony attendees.

Donor forms

Can I fill the forms out online?

Our forms are not available to download from our website, but they can be emailed to you.  Emailed forms are able to be filled out on a computer, however, they must still be printed to be signed and dated. Once you have completed the forms, they may be sent via post to the Body Donor Program, School of Rural Medicine, University of New England,   Armidale   NSW  2351, OR scanned and emailed to anatomydonor@une.edu.au.

What is meant on the donation form by "permanent retention of human tissue" for teaching and research purposes?

An organ or part of your body may be particularly useful for teaching, and/or research purposes. Such a specimen may be "preserved" so that it may be used over and over, without deterioration, so that many generations of students may study it. It could become part of a permanent collection and kept indefinitely.

Who may serve as a witness to my donation?

Any person 18 years or older, preferably someone expected to survive you, may act as your witness. Signatures of two such witnesses are required on our donation forms.

“Thank you very much for your donation. It means a lot for us and I have learnt so much from you. I am very grateful.”

- Second year medical student, 2018

Conditions of acceptance

When you sign the Form 1, “Offer of Remains for Anatomical Examination”, you will read the words “I understand that circumstances, which may only be apparent at the time of donation, may make it impossible for the University to accept my offer”. These circumstances may include the following:

  • Excessive distance from the University of New England – including travel time and the costs involved in transportation;
  • Late notification of death – the University must be able to transfer the body to the University of New England within 15 hours of death; and
  • We may not have the necessary space in our Anatomy Facility to hold the body.

There are also conditions to the body that may be unacceptable for donation:

  • A recent operation that has left the deceased with a wound that may prevent the successful embalming of the body;
  • If the deceased is a Coroner’s case;
  • If the body is obese or severely emaciated;
  • If the deceased has undergone whole organ donation;
  • If the deceased suffered from severe vascular disease which clogs the arteries of the body, making it too difficult to properly embalm the body;
  • If the deceased has contracted a contagious disease prior to death (e.g. viral hepatitis, AIDS/HIV, tuberculosis), or antibiotic resistant bacterial infections such as Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus (MRSA), which constitutes a health hazard to our staff and students;
  • People who have resided in the UK for 6 months or more between the years 1980 and 1996 – this is because there is no current test for variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (CJD).

Please see further under “List of diseases unacceptable for body donation” for a more comprehensive list of unacceptable diseases.

Determination of the acceptability of a body for donation can only be made at the time of death, since the cause of death may render the donation unusable for study.

To avoid undue grief and disappointment to members of your family, donors and their relatives must be aware of the circumstances described above. Where we have no option but to reject an offer, the next of kin or executor will become responsible for funeral arrangements.

List of diseases unacceptable for body donation

The following diseases are unacceptable for body donation (mostly at time of death)

Antibiotic-resistant infections including Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (golden staph), Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococci

Arboviruses including: Dengue Fever, Malaria, Ross River Virus, Yellow Fever

Arterial diseases including: Atherosclerosis (advanced), Peripheral vascular disease

Bacterial infections including: Anthrax, Brucellosis, Diphtheria, Leprosy, Leptospirosis, Plague, Q. Fever (during last 12 months), Salmonella infection (during last month), Tetanus, Trachoma (bacterial eye infection), Ornithosis/ psittacosis, Typhoid & Paratyphoid Fever, Typhus, Vibrio Parahaemolyticus,

Contagious respiratory diseases including: Pertussis (whooping cough), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Legionnaire’s Disease

Haemorrhagic illnesses including: Ebola Virus Disease, Lassa Fever, Marburg Disease, Viral haemorrhagic fevers

Infection - sepsis (during last 12 months), or unhealed surgical wounds, other open wounds or pressure sores, or has had limb amputations

Intestinal infections including: Amoebiasis (last 12 months), Campylobacter infections, Cholera, food poisoning (at time of death), Giardiasis (during last 12 months), Shigella infections (during last month), Yersinia infections

Neurological conditions including: Alzheimer’s disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease, Dementia (any type developed before age 70), Encephalitis, Fatal Familial Insomnia, Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker syndrome, Meningococcal Infections, Motor Neuron Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Poliomyelitis, Rabies

Tapeworm & Hookworm infections including: Ankylostomiasis, Hydatid

Transmissible diseases including: Hepatitis – Viral type A, B, or C infection OR unspecified, H.I.V./ A.I.D.S., Measles (during last month), Tuberculosis (all forms)

Weight issues: Emaciation or severe muscle atrophy (under 40kg) and obesity (over 100kg, although subjected to height/ BMI)

Please speak to our Body Donor Program staff for further clarification

UNE Body Donor Program acceptance area

UNE currently accepts donors for up to 400km from Armidale. However, donors further than 300km away may have considerable transport costs and therefore we ask for the donor’s estate to assist with excess transport charges (see Expenses: What are the costs involved with the program?). This range extends to and includes Lismore, Kyogle, Jennings, Boggabilla, Moree, Wee Waa, Coonabarabran, Muswellbrook and Forster.