More donating their bodies to science

Funeral homes are earning more through cremation of bodies donated to science   

More and more people are leaving their bodies to American medical schools as subjects for dissection, according to an article from Associated Press. The surge in donation has been a bonanza for medical schools, which use the cadavers for anatomy classes or for practicing surgical techniques.

"Not too long ago, it was taboo. Now we have thousands of registered donors," said Mark Zavoyna, operations manager for Georgetown University's body donation program. Other universities also report increases, although some have actually declined in recent years. ScienceCare, which describes itself as "the world’s largest accredited whole body donation program", now gets 5,000 cadavers a year, twice as many as it did in 2010.

ScienceCare’s sales pitch appeals to generosity and altruism: “By providing a vital service and a pathway to greater knowledge and discovery, together we can help save lives, advance medical research and education, and improve quality of life for families and the community.”

But other factors are at work as well. The first is the cost of cremation and funerals. Bodies used by medical schools are cremated and returned to families, often at no expense. This is an important consideration when the average cost of a burial is US$8-10,000. The second is the weakening of religious objections to dissection and cremation. According to Time magazine, for the first time in the US, more people were cremated than buried in 2015. In 1980, fewer than 10% of people chose cremation. 

MORE ON THESE TOPICS | cadaver donations, cremation, donating bodies to science, respect for cadavers

This article is published by Michael Cook and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.

 Search BioEdge

 Subscribe to BioEdge newsletter
rss Subscribe to BioEdge RSS feed

comments powered by Disqus