Potential donors and donor families are encouraged to discuss the topics with their own family funeral director beforehand to ensure a smooth donation process. We also advise family members to inform us if a donor is on end-of-life care, as this will allow us to make arrangements before death and expedite the donation process.

At the time of the death, we will liaise directly with funeral directors to organise body transport. The cost of transporting the deceased to the nearest available mortuary will be the responsibility of the brain bank. Funeral expenses remain the responsibility of the family.

Donation process

Brains are removed at an NHS mortuary with an HTA license for removal and storage for research, close to the place of the donor’s death. Only the brain and spinal cord are retrieved and it should ideally take place as soon as possible after death to ensure that the quality of the donated tissue is as high as possible. A brain retrieval will not interfere at all with a donor’s preference to have an open casket service or cremation.

Once the brain retrieval has taken place, one of our technicians travels to collect the brain and spinal cord tissue. If the brain has been retrieved as fixed, we arrange for a courier to transport the brain to London after the tissue has fixed for approximately two weeks time. 

For complete instructions and more information on retrieval process please see our donation procedure page.

Mortuary requirements

While the process of donation proceeds smoothly in many cases, there have been unforeseen events when we have not been able to proceed with the donation. These incidents cause great distress to families and hinder potentially life-changing research.

In order to avoid future similar events, please visit the HTA website for FAQs on brain and spinal cord donation for hospital and mortuary staff.  This guidance document has been provided by the MRC UK Brain Bank Network in collaboration with the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) and Department of Health.

We hope this will answer most of your questions, but please do not hesitate to contact us for further information.

The most up-to-date service level agreements for the MS Society Tissue Bank and Parkinson's UK Brain Bank can be downloaded by clicking on the appropriate link.