Body donations to US medical schools are up

Although many shied away from it for years, more and more individuals are leaving their bodies to medical schools, The Associated Press reports.

Minneapolis-based University of Minnesota Medical School only received 170 cadavers in 2002, but got more than 550 in 2015. The University at Buffalo (N.Y.) School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences received nearly 600 bodies in 2015, an increase of 300 since 2005. Durham, N.C.-based Duke University School of Medicine and Tucson-based University of Arizona College of Medicine also reported surges.

Even other organizations — like state agencies in Virginia and Maryland, as well as Phoenix-based Science Care — are seeing a rise in cadaver donations.

What's the reason for the boost? Ron Wade, director of Maryland's State Anatomy Board, attributes it to a decrease in objections to dissection. Mark Zavoyna, operations manager for Washington, D.C.-based Georgetown University School of Medicine's anatomical donor program, says there's another reason: "Funerals are expensive. That certainly has something to do with it," he said, according to the report. A traditional burial cost $7,200 in 2014, according to data from the National Funeral Directors Association.

But not every organization has been getting more donations. One state agency in Illinois has been getting 500 bodies per year to distribute across eight medical schools. To mitigate the shortage, medical schools either receive donations from private suppliers or use plastic, rubber or virtual cadavers instead.

"There's no substitute for the real thing, because ultimately these people are going to be taking care of patients," said Michael Zenn, MD, a surgery professor at Duke, according to the report. "It's just a priceless donation."

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