General Information, Conditions and Restrictions

Importance of Bequests

The Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Cape Town acknowledges, with deep respect, the rare gift of whole body donation. These bequests are vital for the teaching of anatomy to medical, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and science students. Bequests may also be used to train professionals for example surgeons in new techniques. It is for these reasons that the anatomy departments of medical schools are legally empowered to receive bodies.

The Department is most grateful to persons who so generously bequeath their bodies for anatomical study. The contribution to the training of tomorrow’s doctors and other health care professionals is enormous.

Teachers on the table: Bodies donated to UCT's anatomy laboratory for dissection by second-year medical students are a vital part of medical education, even when the donor is a centenarian - a trend that's increasing, says Professor Graham Louw. (Photo by Michael Hammond)


Consent of relatives

It is important that all donors make sure that their families are aware of their plans and agree to the bequest.


The Department can only accept bequests from the greater Cape Town area. Should a donor move to live outside this area area or pass away whilst on vacation outside this area,the department may be unable to accept the bequest. Donors who permanently change their residential address to outside of this area should inform the Department of Human Biology. Please contact the department on the numbers below for more information.

Costs paid by the Department of Human Biology

The Department pays the expenses for transporting the body from the place of death to the University and also the cremation costs. We will also cover the costs of the cremation.

Acceptance criteria

The Department endeavours to accept all bequests; however there are five limiting criteria at the time of death:

  1. The donor having a body size that exceeds our storage capabilities (e.g. not exceeding a weight of 90-100kgs).
  2. Having undergone post mortem examination with extensive trauma to the extremities.

Please contact the department on any of the numbers below should more information be required. If a bequest is not accepted the Department will not be liable for charges by the undertaker.

Dedication service

The Department holds an annual service for staff and students to honour the donors that have contributed to their education. This service is multidenominational and includes tributes from the students.

Instructions for next-of-kin

Avbob undertakers may be contacted at 021 593 8553/4 (This is a 24 hour line). If we accept a body, we have an arrangement only for the above company to collect and deliver the body at our expense (in the Cape Town area only). If there are any problems or questions please contact the Department on 021 406 6235.

PLEASE NOTE: In the absence of a doctor, please consult the undertaker regarding the additional documentation.


The anatomical examination of a donor’s body extends through at least a teaching year, so that a period of 18 months or longer normally elapses between the death of a donor and the release of his or her remains. Sometimes the Department will retain some body parts for long term study and research. Following the completion of study, the remains are cremated, without a service and the ashes scattered at the Garden of Remembrance.

Return of ashes

When requested, the Department is prepared to return of ashes to the relatives of the deceased.

Having considered the above, should relatives wish to proceed with a request for return of ashes, they should do so, in writing before the body is removed by the undertakers.

Please note that ashes will only be kept for a maximum period of one year from the date of cremation.