Organ donation and funerals

Posted: 29/05/2018

There are thousands of people across the country who are waiting for an organ transplant that can help to improve their quality of life, or even save their lives entirely. Currently, in the UK, about 3 people die each and every day as a result of waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. Furthermore, only  1 in 100 people who die in the UK each year actually die in circumstances which mean that their organs can, in fact, be considered for transplantation. Many people are interested in the idea of donating their organs to help others (especially when there is a shortage of organ transplant donations across the UK) however, some feel hesitant as a result of believing that this means a funeral cannot go ahead. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. Perfect Funeral Plans explains in further detail how you can still go ahead and make the extremely worthwhile decision of donating organs after you have passed away, whilst still being able to have a funeral where your friends and family can pay their respects.

How does organ donation affect burial?

There are a number of myths surrounding organ donation and the organisation of a funeral. As stated by the NHS website, after organ donation has taken place, it is always the case that the deceased’s body is then returned to the family. This is in much the same way as after any death that has occurred within a hospital, regardless of whether a donation has taken place. After the procedure has been carried out, loved ones have the choice to make whatever funeral or burial arrangements they had intended to carry out (or that you had stated in your funeral plan). The donation process itself does not impact on the way in which a funeral is then organised.

This is in part due to the fact that the organ donation is carried out in mere hours after the death has taken place. In extremely rare cases it could delay a funeral by up to a day or two, but this is the same amount of time an autopsy that needs to be carried out could end up taking. Furthermore, the operation team consists of surgical experts who are aware that many people will want a funeral to be held after, and take into consideration that loved ones may want to see the body for public viewing afterwards. Consequently, incisions into the body tend to be as unobtrusively as is feasibly possible, with donation teams often working closely with the embalming team involved in the funeral procession to ensure that the most appropriate aesthetic methods have been followed.

Is it possible to see the body after it has been donated?


Signing up to be on the organ donation list is a certainly worthwhile thing to do. You can still have the funeral you were intending to have as well as potentially save someone’s life too.

It may be the case that loved ones may want to spend to with the deceased after the organ donation operation has been carried out, but there can be ambiguity as to whether this is possible when such an operation has taken place. Yet, it is still possible to do just this, providing that you contact the transplant coordinator who can help to make arrangements after the procedure, so people can see the body for one final time. When it comes to arrangements to see the deceased after donation, it works in the same way after any other death.

Does a donor’s family have to pay for the cost of organ donation?

We understand that the cost of funerals across the UK, and the various fees involved with different aspects of it are rising year-on-year in the UK  (however, taking out a funeral plan can help to reduce costs by capping them at the price that you have taken the policy out at). This may lead to concerns that you or family members would have to pay additional money in order for organ donation to be carried out. But luckily in the UK, there are no extra costs involved when it comes to donating organs. There is NHS funding that is in place to make sure that fees involved with the organ donation process are covered.

Will my donation leave the body disfigured preventing an open-casket funeral?


Surgeons will be taking the utmost care when carrying out the organ donation procedure to ensure your body is available for viewing, such as through at an open-casket viewing.

As we have previously mentioned, the donation team will take every measure possible to ensure that the utmost care and respect is carried out during the operation to remove organs or tissue. Specialist healthcare professional carries out this operation with dignity and makes it a top priority to ensure that any surgical incisions that are made are carefully covered and made as discrete as possible, in much the same way that this would occur with any other surgical procedure of someone who was still alive.

As a result, this means that open-casket funerals can still take place if you so wish after organ donation has taken place. Furthermore, it is important to note that the body is always clothed for burial so it will not be visible to people seeing the deceased that organ or tissue donation has actually taken place.

What happens if I choose to donate my body?

If you decide to donate your body to medical science, it is common for the medical school in question to organise for the body, once procedures have taken place, a cremation to be arranged. Some medical schools may hold a memorial service for the deceased, but this is something that is dependent on the school and should be enquired about if you are interested in this idea. To find out about the medical schools that are available for this kind of donation you can visit the Human Tissue Authority’s website. If the family has requested for the body to be returned to them for cremation or as a private burial, this is also possible.