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Human Bequest Program

Donating your body to science is a profound act of generosity that will foster medical and scientific progress in Australia, leaving a lasting legacy that will benefit generations to come.

Through the gift of body donation, you become a vital partner in shaping the future of medicine and science in Australia.

The Discipline of Anatomy and Pathology at JCU runs a donor bequest program for the purposes of teaching, examination, study and investigation of human anatomy and pathology.  JCU accepts donations of human bodies, as well as tissue, and skeletons or bones from previous historic medical training and research.

Deciding whether to become a body donor is something that requires significant consideration to ensure you understand the process and the potential impact on yourself and your family.  Please read our Information for Donors and their next of kin (PDF), and discuss this decision with your family before proceeding.

All human bequests are handled by JCU's  Human Bequest Coordinator.

Rod Cook, Human Bequest Coordinator

Information for prospective donors

JCU accepts human bequests of both bodies and skeletal remains in accordance with the Transplantation and Anatomy Act 1979 and the Transplantation and Anatomy Regulation 2017.

Human Bodies

JCU is able to accept body donations from anyone who is:

  • over 18 years of age
  • lives within 400km of Townsville
  • has no disqualifying conditions such as:
    • Significantly affected by certain medical conditions or procedures, such as amputation of a limb, recent unhealed surgical wounds, unhealed bed sores, or disease such as gangrene
    • Whole organ donation
    • Obese (or weighing 90 kg or more) or emaciated (or weighing less than 40 kg)
    • has no disqualifying infectious diseases (Please refer to Information for Donors and their next of kin (PDF) for more information)

Human Tissue, Skeletons and skeletal remains

Families and organisations are occasionally left with human tissue, real skeletons and skeletal remains from previous medical and health professional training.  JCU can rehome these remains, by accepting them as a donation to the university. We use skeletons and remains for educational purposes, and your donation will assist in the education of approximately 1000 students per week.

To donate, please gather any and all documentation that comes with the skeleton (if any), and provide a Statutory Declaration form stating:

  • The origin of the skeletal remains (if possible)
  • How you or your organisation came into possession of the skeletal remains
  • The history of the skeletal remains (if possible)

We welcome your generous donations and if you have any questions please contact the

Human Bequest Coordinator
Phone:   (07) 4781 5022

Before applying to leave your body to JCU, please read the information in the Human Bequests article and ensure you fully understand the process outlined in our Information for Donors and their next of kin (PDF). Discuss this important decision with your family before proceeding.  There are several steps to successful body donation:

Informed Donor Consent 

  1. The prospective donor and next-of-kin should download and review the Donor Consent Form (Printable (PDF) or Electronic (PDF)) and information for Donors and their Next of Kin.
    If unable to access the form please email, call or write to the Human Bequest Coordinator at JCU requesting a copy of the Donor Consent form (contact details above).

Application to Bequeath

  1. To proceed with your application complete the Donor Consent Form (Printable or Electronicand send the completed original form to the Human Bequest Coordinator.
  2. The Human Bequest Coordinator will then send either an acceptance or rejection of registration letter.
  3. Once you receive an acceptance of registration, you can include a statement in your will, such as
    'I wish, if circumstances at the time permit, to bequeath my body after death for the purposes of teaching and research under the Transplantation and Anatomy Act 1979 and direct that it be offered to the Discipline of Anatomy at James Cook University'.

After Death

After the death of a potential donor, time is critical.

  1. The next of kin must contact the  JCU Human Bequest Coordinator (HBC)  by phone at 07 4781 5022 at the time of death (or as soon as possible, preferably within 24 hours).
  2. The Coordinator will begin the process of assessing suitability for donation against the criteria outlined in Information for Donors and their next of kin (PDF) and will complete necessary checks and certify the cause of death, to determine whether a body is suitable for acceptance.  The  Coordinator will make arrangements for the body to be transported by a professional funeral director to the University, where a final decision is made as to whether or not the body will be accepted into the program.
    *If, for whatever reason, a bequest cannot be accepted, the family is advised to make private funeral arrangements. No financial obligation is accepted by JCU in these circumstances.
  3. If accepted, the body is then used for teaching, study, examination and/or investigation of human anatomy and pathology.
  4. Upon completion, your body is cremated individually, and the ashes are either scattered at Woongarra Crematorium or returned to the Next of Kin.

Your body will be housed in JCU's secure Anatomy and Pathology facilities at either the  Cairns or Townsville research laboratories.  Operation of our facilities is underpinned by Queensland Health legislation and all donors received through the program are treated with the utmost dignity and respect at all times.

The facilities comprise:

  • Temperature and humidity controlled anatomy laboratories
  • North Queensland’s largest and only anatomical cadaver, prosection, pathology and skeletal teaching collection
  • High-end Audio Visual systems
  • Mortuary and embalming suite
  • Prosectory
  • Skeletisation facility
  • Plastination facility
  • Refrigerated cadaver storage areas
  • Body Donor Program office
  • Histopathology teaching and learning facility
  • Dedicated technical preparation and dissecting/prosecting areas
  • Histopathology teaching space with VR capabilities
  • Facilities require swipe card access and are monitored by CCTV

JCU Anatomy and Pathology facilities and all donated materials are maintained in compliance with the Transplantation and Anatomy Act 1979 and the Transplantation and Anatomy Regulation 2017.

The JCU Human Bequest program accepts donations of human bodies to provide educational and research opportunities for staff and students in the health, medical and science disciplines.  Most of the bodies donated to the program are used in the education of our future doctors, dentists, therapists, pathologists, pharmacists, and scientists.  Some bodies are used for advanced training of surgeons or specialists, and others contribute to the investigation of human anatomy and pathology.

All donations contribute to the advancement of medical understanding, training or research and are treated with the utmost respect.

When a donated body is no longer of use,  JCU will organise a simple closed cremation of the remains which will either be scattered at the Woongarra Crematorium or returned to the next of kin.

“Giving your body to science is such a treasured and wonderful gift, which helps future generations of healthcare professionals, and strengthens rural and remote healthcare.”

Rod Cook, Human Bequest Coordinator and Anatomy Facility Manager

For questions relating to Human Bequests contact:

Rod Cook
Anatomy Facility Manager & Human Bequest Coordinator
Discipline of Anatomy
College of Medicine and Dentistry
Building 46 Room 121B
James Cook University
Townsville QLD 4811

T:  (07) 4781 5022
M: +61 (0) 488 092 112