John Waller wants to donate his corpse to medical research after death so that he can help trainee doctors learn about science – and save money on funeral costs.
The 71-year-old, whose birthday is today, came to the decision after he retired. His body will be given to Cambridge University after he dies.
He said: “It helps medical students and gives them something to cut up. It’s better than having your body burned or chucked in the ground – and cheaper as well.
“You do have to pay to get your body up there, but maybe my wife could use my pensioner’s bus pass.”
John will be joined at Cambridge University by Lucille Thomas, 48, of Grovehill, who decided to donate her corpse to science after being diagnosed with several autoimmune diseases.
She said: “I have always been a generous person, and this will be my final act of benevolence.
“Hopefully, in the future, body donations will help to enhance cures or develop medicines to help a sick or diseased person.
“Knowing that I may have contributed to this pleases me enormously.
“In another life, I would have liked to be a medical person of some description.”
Tony Hall-Jones, who runs The New Surgery in Church Yard, Tring, dissected corpses while studying medicine in Birmingham during the 1980s.
Dr Hall-Jones said: “It was to get a 3D understanding of how the body is put together. I think it was an important part of the training.
“If you look at the surface of the patient and already have a distinct visual recall of what’s underneath it, you are more likely to understand the cause of their symptoms.”
Bodies are dissected and studied at universities across the country. You can discover the nearest to you and register to give your body to it at Human Tissue Authority website here
Lucille said: “From a very young age, I knew a traditional burial was not for me. I couldn’t bear the thought of rotting and being eaten by insects and bugs underground.
“My idea through the years was to be cremated to avoid this scenario and to get it over and done with quickly.
“However, having been faced with some life changing illnesses, I have given the idea of my demise much thought.
“Not to be macabre, but I want to let my loved ones be aware of my wishes and to make things easier for them after I’m gone.”
Hundreds of people sign onto body donor registers each year. John, of Cobb Road, Berkhamsted, first thought about signing it after his cousins in the USA donated their corpses to medical research.
It was retirement that made him finally do it, because ‘we are all getting older’ – and he wanted to help the living after he has died.
He said: “You do not want a surgeon in hospital cutting you open for the first time. You want to know that they have had a lot of practice beforehand. They have only got to stick a scalpel through the wrong thing and you are dead.”
Once bodies are donated, they are preserved with formaldehyde and kept in fridges before being assigned, usually, to a small group of students.
Those studying physiotherapy, nursing, bioscience and surgery may make use of the corpses a part of their training. They are cremated after they have been finished with and students often attend thanksgiving services and donate flowers.
Each university that accepts donations has an anatomy bequeathal officer, except for London universities which share a central contact point.
The officer talks to every wannabe donor to tell them about the process before forms are sent out for them to sign. After another discussion, their details go on file and they are advised to tell their family and solicitor or GP.
The body can be held for up to three years – but in most cases is used within an academic year.