The Body Donor Programme Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are donor bodies used for?
  2. How do I donate my body to medical science?
  3. Will the University be able to use my body to study the disease I have?
  4. Can I be an organ donor too?
  5. Can I donate my body to the University through my Will?
  6. Can I donate my body if I have no next-of-kin or Executor?
  7. Can my family donate my body on my behalf?
  8. Can I donate my body if I live outside of the Sydney area?
  9. I don't live in the Sydney metropolitan area. Can my body be donated if the transportation costs are paid by my family or estate?
  10. The University has my signed consent, what do I do now?
  11. What happens when I die?
  12. If I've signed my consent form, will the University definitely accept my body?
  13. What happens if the University cannot accept my body?
  14. Could my body be transferred to other institutions?
  15. What if my family wants to have a Memorial Service?
  16. Will my body be buried or cremated?
  17. Will there be any burial or cremation costs for my family or executor?
  18. My family member has donated their body. Can I visit the University and view the body?
  19. I have further questions about becoming a donor, who can I discuss this with?

Am I eligible?

Please read through this page for a detailed guide to eligibility. The two most common reasons that you may be excluded from donating your body are your location and any disqualifying diseases. Please visit our 'Am I eligible?' section to check.

What are donor bodies used for?

By bequeathing their bodies to us, our donors provide the crucial material needed for the study of human anatomy at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Hands-on learning of anatomy, its structures, relationships and functional systems is key to students understanding the real human body including the variations, anomalies and pathology present in each of us. Such aspects of human anatomy are difficult to convey in lectures and books (where the focus is on ideal scenarios rather than the complexities of real human anatomy).

As well as educating a large number of medical, dental and science students, the Discipline of Anatomy & Histology also supports students studying for honours, masters and doctoral degrees. These students are supervised by senior staff who conduct research projects as well as carry out their undergraduate teaching commitments.

The Discipline also facilitates postgraduate courses, workshops and examinations for professional colleges and associations in the areas of surgery, dentistry, ophthalmology and orthopaedics.

Sculpture - The Thinker by Auguste Rodin (Photographed by Daniel Stockman)

How do I donate my body to medical science?

If you are thinking of donating your body to the University of Sydney, your first step is to check whether the University is able to accept your bequest. For example, donations can only be accepted from areas within certain geographical boundaries within the Sydney area. To check if you can register as a donor with us, please call our office during the hours of 9.00 am to 5.00 pm, Monday to Friday, on 9351 2519 or write a letter to:

Donor Programme Co-ordinator
Discipline of Anatomy, F13
School of Medical Sciences
University of Sydney NSW 2006


If you are eligible to become a donor, you will be sent information about the programme and donor forms to complete and for you and your family (or the executor of your will) to sign. When you have completed the forms, retain one set and return the other to the address above.

Please note you will only be advised of your registration with the bequest programme once the University has received the correctly completed donor offer forms and satisfy our acceptance requirements. Once your signed and witnessed consent form has been received, your details are then held in a confidential file. Please make sure you inform your family of your commitment to donate your body.

Will the University be able to use my body to study the disease I have?

No. Our programme enables students to examine and research the complexities and infinite variations of the structure of the human body, however, the programme is not designed to study specific diseases individual donors may have. If you wish your body to be used for research on a particular disease we suggest you contact the relevant patient support group or research organisation.

Can I be an organ donor too?

Yes. You may register with our bequest program and be registered as an organ donor.

At the time of death the University requires the body fully intact and cannot accept a donation where organs have been removed or if the donor has died a physically traumatic death. The reason we allow dual registration is that only 1% of organ donors will die in circumstances where their organs will be suitable for transplant (the organ donor's cardio-vascular system must still be functioning at the time of "brain death" – i.e. on life support).

Victoria Park footpath to the University Image

Can I donate my body to the University through my Will?

No. The University regrets that it is not able to accept a donation through your will alone.

To be accepted as a donor to the University's Body Donation Programme you must register through us directly and fill out the official paperwork. This paperwork will then be assessed and you will be notified of your eligibility.

Can I donate my body if I have no next-of-kin or Executor?

Yes. The registration process requires you to specify the details of your senior next-of-kin and executor, but if you have no next-of-kin or executor, you may contact the NSW Trustee and Guardian who can be assigned as your executor.

NSW Trustee and Guardian web address
http://www.tag.nsw.gov.au/our-locations.html

Can my family donate my body on my behalf?

No. The University can only accept your body if you have completed and signed the Donor Offer forms. It is not possible for your family to donate your body on your behalf (before or after death).

Your family, Executor, next-of-kin, power of attorney or your enduring guardian cannot sign on the donor's behalf. The donor must have the capacity to understand, consent to and sign the registration forms.

Can I donate my body if I live outside of the Sydney area?

No. The Body Donor Programme can only accept donations from residents of the Sydney metropolitan area. Please go to our eligibility page for a guide. Our border restrictions are strictly applied and unfortunately we are unable to negotiate the matter.

If you live outside of our boundaries, please note that you may still be eligible to join alternative body donation programmes with other institutions. Other Universities that have body donor programmes in Australia are:

Uni of NSW –  9385 2480 

Uni of Western Sydney – ph 4620 3790

Uni of Sydney (Cumberland)  9351 9457

Fax – 19715  (Bev)

BRAIN donor programme at Uni of Sydney

9351 2410

Aust. National Uni (ACT)     6125 2198

Uni of Newcastle – 4921 5663 

Uni of Queensland     07 3365 2703

Griffith Uni (Gold Coast)  07 5552 7700

Uni of Melbourne    03 8344 5809

Uni of Wollongong  4221 4342

Uni of New England Armidale 6773 3087

Uni of Adelaide     (08) 8303 5998

Lions NSW EYE BANK   9382 7288

Lifegift ORGAN DONATION   9229 4003

I don't live in the Sydney metropolitan area. Can my body be donated if the transportation costs are paid by my family or estate?

No. Our border restrictions are applied very strictly due to the the importance of receiving the donor's body very quickly, and the boundaries set by the contracted Funeral Directors.

Additionally, the level of interest in the program requires us to limit the area from which we will accept applications.

The University has my signed consent, what do I do now?

Once you have been registered with us as a donor you will be sent a donor card. You should inform your family, nurse, doctor in attendance or nursing home administrator of your intentions. Although a good idea, it is not compulsory to put your intention to donate your body in your Will. However, many donors do so for clarification purposes. You should discuss your intentions to donate with your next of kin and executor. It is important that your family and your executor accept your wishes.

The University's donor offer forms are not legally binding. Should you change your mind at any time you can inform us simply by writing to the Donor Programme Co-ordinator.

It is important to notify the Body Donor Programme in writing should your address, your executor’s or senior next of kin's circumstances change. Also, it is important to notify the Body Donor Programme if you contract a serious infectious disease.

If you wish to make a contribution towards expenses that will be incurred by the University, or if you wish to contribute financially to research in the Discipline of Anatomy, this is best arranged in consultation with your solicitor.

What happens when I die?

Upon your death, the University or the University's contracted funeral director needs to be notified as soon as possible. Ideally the body should be delivered to the University within 24 hours of death but no more than 48 hours, otherwise the University may not be able to accept the donation.

The contact number for the Discipline of Anatomy and Histology is 9351 2519. After hours (i.e. outside the hours of 9 am to 5 pm on weekdays), weekends & holidays, a recorded message on this number will provide the telephone number of our contracted funeral director.

Immediately upon receiving the notification of death, we, or our funeral director will make appropriate arrangements for removal of the body and delivery to the University, and meet all relevant expenses associated with your donation. We will also be responsible for burial or cremation as indicated by your preference on the consent forms.

Should your relatives wish to place a death notice in a newspaper our funeral director is able to make the necessary arrangements (see above for contact details). The University does not bear the cost of such notices. Please note that once the body has been delivered to the University, there is normally no further contact with relatives.

A beautiful day photographed at the Anderson Stuart building

If I've signed the consent form, will the University definitely accept my body?

Not necessarily. The University regrets that it is not able to guarantee we can accept your body at the time of death. The time between the initial registration and your death may be several years or more, and circumstances can change significantly both with your own health and the circumstances prevailing in our mortuary. While the University welcomes and greatly values you as a donor, circumstances may arise which could prevent receipt of your body.

Some conditions that will prevent the University from accepting the donation include:

  • if more than 24 hours have elapsed between the time of death and notifying the University
  • if more then 48 hours have elapsed between the time of death and delivery of the body to the University facilities
  • if a post mortem is held
  • if organs have been removed for transplant surgery
  • if the presence of an infectious disease poses a health risk to staff and students
  • if the University's facilities are at capacity
  • if the donor is Clinically Obese
  • if the donor has spent time which adds up to 6 months or more in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man during 1 January 1980 through to 31 December 1996 inclusive
  • if your family object to the donation at the time of death
  • if you die outside our acceptance area (please visit our eligibility page to check our boundaries)
  • unforeseen circumstances

Please note other circumstances may arise which would prevent receipt of the body.

What happens if the University cannot accept my body?

If we are unable to accept the donation, the University or its representative (usually the contracted funeral directors) will advise the executor or senior next-of-kin. Please note no financial obligation (such as funeral expenses) can be accepted by the University if we are unable to accept the body.

Due to such a possibility, the Body Donor Programme recommends having alternative arrangements in place in case the University is unable to accept the donation.

Could my body be transferred to other institutions?

There is a provision on the donor's offer form for you to indicate whether you give consent for your body, or tissue taken from it, to be transferred to another licensed institution in Australia. Your remains may be transfered to another institution if there is a shortage of human material for teaching and research. Specialised facilities may exist elsewhere that conduct workshops or courses requiring human specimens.

If your whole body is transferred to another institution, they officially take possession of your body and become responsible for the interment of your remains by making arrangements for a simple burial or cremation as specified by you and would meet the expenses of these arrangements. Where tissue has been transferred to another licensed institution, that institution will be required to return it to us so that it can be either buried or cremated (in accordance with your instructions) with the rest of your remains.

What if my family wants to have a Memorial Service?

At the time of death your relatives may organise a ceremony with their chosen funeral director. However, your body would not be present as donors are usually delivered to the university within 24 hours after death.

Will my body be buried or cremated?

The University generally completes examination of the deceased remains within 2 years, but may retain them for up to 8 years with permission from the NSW Department of Health. If the donor has indicated that they will allow indefinite retention of the body, the University may keep body tissue in excess of 8 years. It is important you discuss this fact with your next of kin and/or relatives.

After anatomical examination has been completed, the University will arrange a simple burial or cremation as indicated by you on your forms.

Our donors are buried at Macquarie Park cemetery. Please be aware that the donor burial grounds are not available for visitation - it is suggested that you discuss this with your family.

Will there be any burial or cremation costs for my family or executor?

The University will meet expenses for the standard burial or cremation mentioned above. Arrangements are carried out by our funeral director and the remains are finally placed in the grounds of the Northern Suburbs Crematorium or Macquarie Park Cemetery, unless the donor has specified otherwise on the donor offer form. The donor may also request that the ashes be returned to their next-of-kin.

If the donor requests an alternative crematorium or cemetery (other than Northern Suburbs Crematorium or Macquarie Park Cemetery) the costs cannot be covered by the University and will need to be covered by the donor's family or estate.

For cremations, upon special request, the University is able to offer a brief non-denominational committal service at the time of cremation. For burials, upon special request, the University is able to offer a brief non-denominational Chapel service - please be aware that a service at the burial site is not possible as the donor burial grounds are not available for visitation. The University will meet the expenses for this standard service however any extra requirements will need to be covered by the donor's family or estate.

My family member has donated their body. Can I visit the University and view the body?

No. Once the donation is complete, there is normally no contact between the donors family and the programme. It is a condition of donation that we do not allow family members or members of the public to view bodies within our programme.

I have further questions about becoming a donor, who can I discuss this with?

If you have further questions about becoming a donor, please do not hesitate to contact us on 9351 2519 Monday to Friday, between the hours of 9.00am - 5.00pm or you can email us at . We greatly value our potential donors and we would be very happy to assist you with any of your questions.

Thank you for your interest in the Body Donor Programme at the University of Sydney.

astern Façade of Anderson Stuart Building as seen from Eastern Avenue image

Eastern Façade of the Anderson Stuart Building as seen from Eastern Avenue


'The Thinker' photograph by Daniel Stockman.