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Thanksgiving service

The 2024 service will be held in Dunedin. For more information please contact the department:

Each year the Department holds a Thanksgiving Service to honour and remember the altruistic actions of those who donate their bodies. The services alternate between Dunedin and Christchurch. For more information please contact the Bequest Administrator on 0800 580 500.

The service from 2013 can be viewed here (1 hour, 47 minutes)

Bequest reflections

Reflected_flowers_226pxWhen a donor passes away, a booklet with personal messages from students studying Anatomy is sent to the family of the people who have donated their body. These messages are their own words of thanks and gratitude to their donor and to the donor's family, whose generous donation enabled them to study Anatomy as part of their chosen career.

Their words reflect the enormous respect and appreciation felt by the Department and it's students, to the donors, and to the families who sacrifice so much to honour their loved ones wish to donate their body to further medical and science education and research.

Sometimes the words “thank you” just don't seem enough.

Below are extracts from the latest booklet.

"To the friends and family of the most generous people I've ever met, thank you.
I have been personally changed by the privilege your loved ones have given my classmates and I.  In them I saw humility, true service and belief in the future.  Through them, I learnt how to serve my future patients.  Through them, I am inspired to keep striving for excellence.  Through them, I am excited for future opportunities to share my experience, skills and knowledge.
We thank you and your loved ones for the gift you all have generously given.  We thank you for your support and belief in us.
We are better students and future health professionals because of you."
Karla Yumul, 2nd Year Dental student
"It was hard at first to be in the room with your loved ones.  It was difficult to get to the tasks at hand without any kind of proper introduction.  However, despite their silence, I've gotten to know them much more intimately than I think anyone has ever been able to.  And, in doing so, I got to know myself and the workings of all other people too.
I may one day end up as a surgeon and, if I do, it would be in no small part because of the aid of your family members.
I am eternally grateful and truly honored.
Thank you."
Jon Anderson, 3rd Year Medical student
"I would like to express my sincerest condolences to the family members and friends of those who have donated their bodies to aid in the medical learning of my classmates and I.  It is often easy for us to forget that these generous people were once someone's mother or father, brother or sister.
They have done an incredible thing, to give their body to aid in the learning of students and it must have taken an incredible amount of courage to do so.
I hope that you see the value that your relative has provided to the Medical School, and we are in great debt to them for their donation.
Hopefully we will be able to repay this debt by becoming the best doctors that we can be, to serve people like them and yourselves.
I again thank you, and them, for their donation.  I realise this would not be an easy thing for many of you, which makes my classmates and myself ever so grateful."
Edward Henley, 3rd year Medical student
Body Bequests
Criteria for Accepting a Body

Respecting our culture.


At the beginning of each year a Māori ceremony, or Whakawatea, is carried out in the Department's Dissection Room.

This "clearing of the way" ceremony helps the Department's Māori students who will be attending classes in the Dissection Room come to terms with death, and is not intended to have any religious significance for the individual bequeathed bodies.

At the end of the teaching year the bodies are thanked with a Poroporoaki (farewell).

For full detail of how the Body Bequest Programme works

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