The Body Donation Program in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia (UBC) has been in service since 1950. Over the years many individuals have donated their bodies for the purpose of anatomical study and medical research making a very special and valuable contribution to the education of our health care professionals and the communities they serve. The growth of the UBC Faculty of Medicine has created an increased need for donated anatomical material required for educational and research purposes. In order to obtain detailed and essential knowledge of structure and function of the human body, future doctors, dentists, rehabilitation therapists and scientists must study human remains as part of their training. The donation of one’s body is a very special gift to the future healthcare professionals of our community.
Most body donations are used for teaching purposes and will be the subject of student examination and dissection. However, some donations will be used specifically for medical and research training. These donations will help to advance surgical training techniques and enhance progress in areas of medical research. The UBC Body Donation program does not perform and is not involved in any individual- or disease-specific research, as this is more appropriately performed in tissue culture or living patients.
Students preparing themselves for careers in medicine, dentistry and related professions are fully aware of the special privilege granted to them and the obligation they have to conduct themselves in a professional manner during their training. People who donate their bodies to the medical school can be assured that all human remains are accorded the dignity and respect that our society customarily grants the dead.
As the custodian of the donations, the University ensures that the anonymity, confidentiality and dignity of our donors is upheld.
You can register as a body donor by completing two copies of our consent form. Please read and check the sections on all 3 pages. After signing both copies of the consent form, return one copy to UBC and deposit the other with a close family member or your physician, who will be in a position to carry out your wishes at the appropriate time. An executor or next of kin may complete and sign an executor consent form after the death of a potential donor, or on behalf of an individual unable to give consent. Our donors have the option upon registration to consent to an indefinite donation: this allows the University to retain some of the anatomical material longer than the typical six month to three year period. This provides a significant contribution for the education of our students. It is also important that donors are aware that consent to donate one’s body may also include consent for tissue sampling, serology testing and medical imaging of anatomical material for educational and research purposes.
At the Time of Death
As soon as possible after death has occurred, the executor, next of kin or health care professional must contact the UBC Body Donation Program at 604-822-2578. Prolonged delay in notification can result in the decline of the donation. Please note that as a condition of acceptance to the program, we must receive the body within 72 hours of death. If death occurs outside regular business hours (8am-4pm, Mon-Fri), please leave us a detailed message, then contact Alternatives Funeral and Cremation Services at 604-857-5779. If a funeral service is desired it is strongly recommended that it take place in the form of a memorial service without the presence of the body. It is suggested that arrangements be made for this type of service prior to death. In order to determine if a body is appropriate for donation, our staff must first contact the physician and family of the deceased. A medical history for the deceased will only be obtained after death. The executor/next of kin and physician will be notified once we determine if the donation can proceed. Once accepted, we will make all of the necessary arrangements for transport of the body by our approved funeral home and licensed transport provider to UBC. If declined, it will be the responsibility of the executor or next of kin to make alternate arrangements for the deceased.
Accepted donations will remain under the care of the University for a period of six months to three years. In addition, if an individual has specified on their consent form that their remains be donated indefinitely, then a portion may be retained for use in teaching, training and research. After use, the University will arrange for cremation of the remains by Alternative Funeral and Cremation Services, and the executor/next-of-kin will be contacted to collect the ashes. All cremated remains must be claimed at this time. The University will bear the cost of cremation and simple urns. The executor/next of kin is responsible for providing any special urns, burial plots, monuments or memorial services for the donor.
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No, but donors must be over the age of 30 to qualify.
No, some conditions will not allow for donation to occur. The University reserves the right to decline any donation if considered unsuitable for its purposes. It is recommended that alternate arrangements be made in the event that the donation is declined.
• Infectious diseases (e.g. HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B or C)
• Severe antibiotic resistant infections (e.g. MRSA, VRE)
• Extensive trauma to the body (including recent major surgery)
• Autopsy or Coroner’s case
• Delay in notification of death
• Most organ donations with the exception of corneal transplant (eye donation)
• Other conditions at the discretion of the Physician and Body Program Staff
Provided the donor still meets all other eligibility criteria, we can accept donors who undergo Medically Assisted Death.
If death occurs outside the Greater Vancouver Regional District, the estate or the next of kin are responsible for costs associated with transport of the donated remains to the University of British Columbia. The University will bear the cost of cremation when it occurs.
Yes, financial contributions are accepted. Cheques made payable to the Anatomical Sciences Research Endowment, can be mailed to the program address.
No, the University of British Columbia – Vancouver is the only Body Donor Program in British Columbia.
Yes, it is acceptable to register with both the UBC Body Donation Program and the BC Transplant Society. However, in the event of solid organ removal for transplant (with the exception of corneal transplant) body donation is not possible. If you are declined as an organ donor, body donation may be considered as an alternative. For information on organ donation, please contact BC Transplant at 604-877-2240 or online at www.transplant.bc.ca
Yes. You may contact the office at any time to rescind your consent for donation. Also, the Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences cannot accept donations if the family or executor of the donor contests the donation. You should discuss your decision with your family so that they are comfortable with your choice to donate your body.
It is recommended that you notify and discuss this decision with your next of kin, executor of your estate and your physician.
A medical school in the region where death occurs may be contacted to make arrangements for donation to another program. Occasionally donations are accepted from out of province. However your next of kin or estate will be responsible for the costs associated with transportation. If you move away from British Columbia, we recommend that you make arrangements with a donor program in your place of residence.
No, we do not perform autopsies on the donations that are received at our facility.
Yes, each year the students organize a beautiful and dignified memorial service for donors who were cremated in the previous year. This is typically held on a Saturday in late September at UBC, with invitations being sent out in August.
Death Certificates will be issued for all accepted donors by our contracted funeral home, Alternatives Funeral and Cremation Services.