Body of research proves popular

It's the university program that Queenslanders are dying to get into.

More than 500 people who wish to donate their corpse to science register each year to the University of Queensland's Body Donor Program.

Dr Shannon Armstrong from UQ's School of Biomedical Sciences says donors are typically older people.

"People certainly in their 70s to 90s (register), but we do have people who register in their 50s," she said.

"It's not that we restrict it to any certain age group.

"Anyone aged 18 or over can sign up.


"But I think it's just that young people don't necessarily contemplate their mortality."

Research being conducted by the school suggests those who register do so for philanthropic reasons.

"We haven't collated everything but generally what we've received so far is that people want to aid medical science," Dr Armstrong said.

"There's a couple of people who are a bit concerned about (having to organise) funerals, but the overwhelming response has been that they want to give back."

Corpses are embalmed or cryogenically preserved at the university and are used in teaching medical students, research or surgical workshops.

However, not all corpses are accepted.

Infections, recent chemotherapy, or interference with the body (for example by a coroner) automatically rule out a corpse.

"You never know until someone passes away and the donor undergoes medical assessment whether they will be accepted," Dr Armstrong says.

Brisbane grandfather William Bedell, 90, registered with the program about 15 years ago after a delicate operation on his throat.

"I felt so happy that (the surgeon) had a dead body to practice on before he practised on me," he said.

He says his family supports his decision and he doesn't worry about what will happen to his body once it's given to the university.

"I must say that as a Christian I believe that my spirit is elsewhere after I leave this body, so I don't hold any fears or qualms about what they might do to it at all," he said.

UQ will hold its annual thanksgiving service for donors' families on May 2.

Dr Armstrong says it's a chance for academics and students to say 'thank you'.

When it comes to teaching anatomy, there's no comparison between cadavers and diagrams, she says.

"You can't learn anatomy from a textbook," she said.

"It's just one of those three-dimensional disciplines, one of those sciences where you need to have a look at how everything interrelates.

"The different textures between a vein and an artery and a nerve, what connective tissue feels like and how strong it is ... you can understand it theoretically, but you really can't get a good understanding of it until you see it."