European Asbestos Forum

The University of Manchester is one of 29 medical schools in Britain that uses donated bodies to teach students. In the last five years, over 2,000 people have agreed to donate their bodies to the school.

Donated bodies are used for research and to help teach trainee doctors, dentists and nurses. The University required approximately 50 bodies each year, however, some bequeathals have to be turned away. If a Coroner has been involved after a death or if a post mortem was needed, a body may not be able to be donated. This means that those suffering with an asbestos related condition, such as mesothelioma, asbestosis or pleural thickening, may not be able to donate their bodies, should they wish to.

However, a family in Bolton were able to fulfil their father’s wishes, despite him suffering with mesothelioma. John Burgess had told his family that he wanted to donate his body for the aid of medical science. Unfortunately, before he passed away he was told that this could not happen as his death would be caused by exposure to asbestos and would therefore be recorded as an industrial disease.

The family wanted to fulfil Mr Burgess’s wishes and so prior to his sad passing, contacted the coroner. They were able to ensure his death was recorded in time, allowing the donation of his body to go ahead.

As it is rare that the bodies of mesothelioma sufferers can be donated to medical science, Mr Burgess’s donation was invaluable to the University.

Although his family were happy that they were able to fulfil his wishes, Mr Burgess’s daughter, Lynn, did say:-

‘It can be strange for the family because you don’t have a body or a funeral.”

However, every year the University has a memorial for the families of those who have donated their bodies. It is their way of thanking them for the sacrifice made.

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