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Body donor program

Advancing our knowledge of the human body
Donors provide a teaching resource for which there is no satisfactory substitute and thereby make an important contribution to the advancement of medicine.

Dignity, respect and anonymity are accorded the deceased remains of donors during and after anatomical studies. Our anatomy students are fully aware of the special privilege granted to them by the generosity of community-minded citizens. You can be certain that by donating your body, you are both advancing medicine and providing invaluable education.

The University is extremely grateful to those who have contributed to the advancement of medicine by donating their body.

If you are interested in donating, please check your eligibility and contact the Body Donor Program Coordinator for more information. 

Eligibility

Please read the frequently asked questions below for a thorough guide on eligibility. The two most common reasons for ineligibility are location and disqualifying diseases. 

We accept eligible donations from donors who live in the Sydney metropolitan area. Please be aware that if you currently live in Sydney and you move to a location outside of our boundaries, the University will have to cancel your donation. Also, please be aware that we will not be able to accept your donation if you pass away outside of the acceptance area.

For the health and safety of our staff and students, the body donor program is bound by the decisions made by risk assessment groups that advise us. If you have a disease that is either not well understood or potentially infectious, unfortunately we cannot accept your donation.

  • AIDS
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Amoebiasis
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Ankylostomiasis
  • Anthrax
  • Arbovirus infections
  • Brucellosis
  • Campylobacter infections
  • Cholera
  • Creutzfeld-Jacob disease (CJD)
  • Congenital Rubella Syndrome
  • Dementia (any type developed before age 70)
  • Diphtheria
  • Ebola virus
  • Encephalitis
  • Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI)
  • Food poisoning
  • Giardiasis
  • Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker syndrome (GSS)
  • Hepatitis – unspecified
  • Hepatitis – all viral forms
  • Human immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV)
  • Hydatid
  • Infantile diarrhoea
  • Lassa fever
  • Legionnaires' disease
  • Leprosy
  • Leptospirosis
  • Malaria
  • Marburg disease
  • Measles
  • Meningococcal infections
  • Motor Neuron Disease (MND)
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Ornithosis
  • Pertussis
  • Poliomyelitis
  • Q fever
  • Rabies
  • Salmonella infections
  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)
  • Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
  • Tetanus
  • Trachoma
  • Tuberculosis – all forms
  • Typhoid and paratyphoid fever
  • Typhus – all forms
  • Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococci (VRE)
  • Vibrio parahamemolyticus infections
  • Viral haemorrhagic fevers
  • Whooping cough
  • Yellow fever
  • Yersinia infections

Other 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
  • unforeseen circumstances.

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

Frequently asked questions

Please read the questions and answers below, which offer a thorough guide on eligibility for body donation. Feel free to contact us if you have any further questions regarding your eligibility.

Our donors provide the crucial material needed for the study of human anatomy. Hands-on learning of anatomy – its structures, relationships, and functional systems – is key to students understanding the 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 and Histology also supports students studying honours, master's 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.

If you are thinking of donating your body to the University, your first step is to check your eligibility.

If you are eligible to become a donor, contact the Donor Program Program Coordinator and who will send you information about the program and forms to complete (by you, your family or the executor of your will). When you have completed the forms, retain one set and return the other to the address above.

We will advise you of your registration with the bequest program once the University has received the correctly completed donor offer forms and they satisfy our acceptance requirements. Once your signed and witnessed consent form has been received, your details are held in a confidential file.

Please make sure you inform your family of your commitment to donate your body.

No.

Our program enables students to examine and research the complexities and infinite variations of the structure of the human body, however, the program 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.

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 if organs have been removed. The reason we allow dual registration is that less than 1 percent of people die in hospital in the specific circumstances in which organ donation is possible.

If you wish be an organ donor, we suggest you review your options through DonateLife or you can sign up through the Australian Organ Donor Register.

No.

The University regrets that it is not able to accept a donation through your will alone.

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.

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.

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 contacting us. 

It is important to notify us in writing should your address, your executor’s or senior next of kin's circumstances change. Also, it is important to notify us 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 and Histology, this is best arranged in consultation with your solicitor.

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.

  • +61 2 9351 2519

If you call after hours, over the weekend or on a public holiday, a recorded message will provide the telephone number of our contracted funeral director.

Immediately upon receiving the notification of death, we, or our funeral director will make 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. 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.

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.

Conditions that will prevent the University from accepting the donation

  • More than 24 hours have elapsed between the time of death and notifying the University.
  • More than 48 hours have elapsed between the time of death and delivery of the body to the University facilities
  • A post-mortem is conducted.
  • Organs have been removed for transplant surgery.
  • Presence of an infectious disease which may pose a health risk to staff and students.
  • The University's facilities are at capacity.
  • The donor is clinically obese.
  • The donor has spent time which adds up to six months or more in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man from 1 January 1980 to 31 December 1996.
  • The donor's family objects to the donation at the time of death.
  • The donor dies in a location that is outside of the acceptance area of the Sydney metropolitan area.

Please note that unforeseen circumstances may arise which could prevent acceptance of the donation.

If we are unable to accept the donation, the University or its representative will advise the executor or senior next of kin. Please note no financial obligation can be accepted by the University if we are unable to accept the body.

Due to such a possibility, the body donor program recommends having alternative arrangements in place in case the University is unable to accept the donation.

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 transferred 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.

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.

The University generally completes examination of the deceased remains within 2-4 years but may retain them for up to 8 years with permission from the NSW Department of Health. If you have indicated that you will allow permanent retention of the body or tissue taken from it, the University may retain them in excess of 8 years. It is important you discuss this fact with your family.

The University will arrange a simple burial or cremation, as indicated by you on your forms. The University will meet expenses for the cremation or simple burial. If you request an alternative crematorium or cemetery, the costs cannot be covered by the University and will need to be met by your family or estate.

Burials

If simple burial is selected, you will be buried at Macquarie Park Cemetery. These public burial grounds are not available for visitation so we recommend you discuss this with your family. You may wish to purchase, at your own expense, an individual burial plot at a cemetery of your choice.

On special request, the University is able to offer a brief, non-denominational chapel service –but 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 simple service, however any extra requirements will need to be covered by your family or estate.

Arrangements are carried out by our funeral director and cremations will take place at Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens and Crematorium or simple burials at Macquarie Park Cemetery

Cremation

If cremation is selected, the ashes will be scattered in the grounds of the Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens and Crematorium unless you have specified that the cremated remains should be returned to your next of kin or family member.

If no preference is selected your remains may be cremated or buried, with the decision being made at the time of interment.

On special request, the University may offer a brief non-denominational committal service at the time of cremation. The University will meet the expenses for this simple service, however any extra requirements will need to be covered by your family or estate.

No.

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

Contact us

Body Donor Program Coordinator
Address
  • Discipline of Anatomy, F13 School of Medical Sciences University of Sydney NSW 2006