Persons with lawful custody of a body may permit it to undergo anatomical examination unless to their knowledge the deceased, during their lifetime, either in writing or verbally in the presence of two or more witnesses during the final illness, expressed the wish that their body should not undergo such examination, or unless the surviving spouse or senior next of kin requires the body to be interred or cremated without such examination (s 28 Human Tissue Act 1982(Vic) (“HTA 1982”)).
The body of any person who dies in a public hospital or other public institution may, in some circumstances, be used for anatomical research, unless to the knowledge of the licensee of the institution the deceased had expressed a desire either in writing (at any time during their lifetime) or verbally in the presence of two or more witnesses during the final illness that their body should not undergo such examination, or unless the surviving spouse or senior next of kin of the deceased requires the body to be interred or cremated without examination (s 32 HTA 1982).
A printed copy of this section of the HTA 1982 must be posted in the entrance hall or other conspicuous place of every penal establishment or public hospital (except psychiatric hospitals).
A deceased person’s surviving spouse or senior next of kin can prevent such an examination if they require the body to be interred or cremated without such examination.
The option of donating one’s body to anatomical research is no longer open in practice. Currently, supply exceeds demand in the university medical schools and for the time being such donations are not being accepted. The position is different with regard to parts of the body such as kidneys and eyes which, if in good condition and removed from the body soon after death, may be used in transplant operations. The HTA 1982 provides that an adult may authorise the use of their body for transplant purposes. Appropriate notification should be carried at all times if this is desired (s 26 HTA 1982).