top of page

Body Farms...

In the UK when someone dies, they may wish to donate their body to the medicine. This means the corpse will be sent to a hospital or medical school and they will become a silent teacher. Students and professionals alike will dissect the remains, observe the anatomy and learn from it. Bodies may be used to practice surgical techniques or other lab-based experiments.

However, in America, things are done slightly differently. Bodies can be donated to a body farm. Body farms focus on observing the decomposition of a body over some time and how weather and scavengers may impact this process. So, what exactly goes on at these body farms, is it legal, and is it ethical?

The first stateside body farm was opened by William Bass in 1987. Bass was a forensic anthropologist interested in studying a corpse's decomposition from the time of death to the time of decay. There are seven of these facilities dotted around the United States. Due to the vast climate of America, these bodies in these different locations experience decomposition differently due to changes in weather and the insects and animals are native to the area. Bodies are placed in the many acres of these fenced facilities to be monitored. Some examples of how they studied decomposition included placing a body in the boot of a car and submerging a body in water to see how this affects the process. This research is beneficial for forensic anthropologists, pathologists, crime scene officers, and police. It helps to prepare those for real-life crime scenes. Hundreds of bodies are donated to these facilities each year.

It's not just America that has body farms. In the last decade, a body farm opened near Sydney, Australia. Shari Forbes who opened the Australian body farm also established one in Canada. Body farms are not a legal practice here in the UK. Pig remains have been studied here as they are the closest we can get to human remains ethically.

Typically, the bodies that are donated are those of the older generations. Many have argued that these bodies are not a good representation as those that are murdered are typically younger so placing these elderly bodies in boots of cars or other situations does not give an accurate representation of murder and decomposition. The laws regarding body donation are very strict here in the UK and that dates back to the grave diggers and Burke and Hare. However, in America, people can donate their bodies to medicine and end up decomposing in a field.

Dissect real organs at The Post Mortem Live! Could you stomach it?

bottom of page