You will have to act quickly if it was the wish of the deceased or the nearest relative to donate organs for transplant, or the whole body for medical teaching purposes.
The usual procedure is to approach the next-of-kin to make sure they do not object to organ donation.
If the death was in a hospital or similar institution, the head of that institution is lawfully in possession of the body. They may honour the deceased person's request, in writing or orally before two witnesses, for the body to be given to medical research, if there is no reason to think the request will be withdrawn.
If the death has to be reported to the coroner, the coroner’s consent may be necessary before the organs or body can be donated. A medical certificate must be issued before any organs can be removed or the body donated for medical teaching.
It is usual for kidneys, and essential for heart, lungs, liver and pancreas, to be removed from donors:
- who have been certified to be brain stem dead, and
- whose breathing, and hence heartbeat, are maintained by a ventilator in a hospital intensive care unit
Kidneys can, very rarely, be removed up to an hour after heart death. Other organs can be removed up to the following times after heart death:
- the corneas from the eyes - up to 24 hours
- skin - up to 24 hours
- bone - up to 36 hours
- heart valves - up to 72 hours
The doctor attending will advise on procedure. After organ donation, the body is released to the relatives.
Whole body donation and medical teaching
Contact the Centre for Bio Medical Sciences Education/Anatomy with the School of Medicine/Dentistry and Bio Medical Science about whole body donation. This is at:Queen's University Belfast (QUB)
Whitla Medical Building
97 Lisburn Road
Consideration will be given to the place and cause of death, the condition of the body at the time of death and demand in the medical schools. The body may then be accepted. Bodies may be refused if there has been a post-mortem or if any major organs except the cornea have been removed.
A body may be kept for medical teaching purposes for up to three years. The medical schools will arrange and pay for a simple funeral, or the relatives can do this for themselves. The medical school can advise relatives when the body is available for funeral. More information can be obtained from Queen's University.