Charting the life of Toni Crews, and working alongside Brighton and Sussex Medical School, My Dead Body tells the incredible story of Toni’s illness with cancer before and after her death, narrated by her own words.
Toni was the first person in the UK to elect to donate her body for public display. This film shows the dissection of Toni’s body during a series of educational workshops- the first time a dissection has been captured on TV of a named donor- which is intended to educate viewers on the science of cancer and its journey through the human body.
Diagnosed with a rare cancer of the tear gland in 2016, which lead to her eye being removed, mother of two Toni discovered her cancer was terminal in 2020 and made the decision to continue to raise awareness of the disease – even after death.
She not only agreed to donate her body to medical science but also chose to give consent for it to be on public display. She died in August 2020 at the age of 30, and in 2022 Toni became the first public display cadaver in the UK since records began 180 years ago, and the first British cadaver to be seen being dissected in such a way, for almost 200 years.
In this never-before-seen medical investigation, the film follows Professor Claire Smith, Head of Anatomy at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, and her team as they dissect Toni’s body and chart the course of the disease from the initial diagnosis to her death four years later.
By understanding exactly what caused Toni’s symptoms and building a timeline of how the cancer developed, this unique study will support decades of research for medical students and academics, with the aim of helping the lives of countless people for years to come.
Professor Claire Smith, Head of Anatomy at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, said: “We have been so privileged to explore the journey of cancer through the incredible donation made by Toni. As part of this documentary, we were able to invite more than 1,000 students, including nurses, paramedics and neuroscientists, who wouldn’t normally get to learn about this one in a million cancer.
“Toni’s gift of body donation doesn’t end with this documentary either; her body will be used to educate our medical students and doctors for years to come.”
Featuring home video footage and beautifully frank interviews with her family, we get a glimpse into Toni’s brave, funny and resilient character. With Toni as our guide the film draws from a vast collection of her social media posts and letters to her children using incredible, cutting-edge voice replicating technology.
Anna Miralis, Channel 4 Commissioning Editor, said: “This landmark documentary will bring together the latest in anatomical science and cutting-edge tech to tell one of the most intimate stories of all: how a young mum bravely fought for her life against a rare form of cancer...
"By donating her body to public display -the first of its kind in the UK- Toni Crews has given us an extraordinary and unique insight into the journey of the disease; while the presence of her voice in the form of diary entries, letters and social media posts ensures the film is filled with all the warmth and generosity that characterised Toni’s inspiring life.”
My Dead Body is a 1x60’ for Channel 4 produced by 141 Productions.