Business, Regulations

Time to regulate the anatomical bequest business

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As a funeral director every so often I was asked by a person or family to help with an anatomical bequest of a person who wanted to donate their body for medical research.  I’m located between Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Grand Forks, North Dakota, where the medical schools for those respective states are located.  There was never any problem with those university institutions in clearing the paperwork for the future anatomical gift.  And, I’m certain, when the time came, that those deceased human beings were treated with the utmost respect at those institutions.

That’s why it is so hard to come to grips with this story that came to light last week about an anatomical bequest body being used at a Portland, Oregon, event heralded as an “Oddities and Curiosity Expo”.  An admission fee of $500 allowed participants to watch an autopsy in progress.

As you can read and watch from these following news items, the deceased was eventually identified as a 98-year old veteran whose family had no idea that his remains would be used in this fashion.

As a matter of fact, many of you probably received the e-mail that I did from the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) encouraging us to stop this type of event and lobby for legislation to regulate the world of anatomical donation — especially the “for-profit” world of such.  Here’s an NFDA flyer on how to help this cause.

It is easier for me to allow you to read and see publicity on this Portland event than for me to try to describe it to you.  However, in my opinion, funeral directors need to step up and protect these families who become innocent victims of those who are unscrupulous in the “for-profit” anatomical bequest world.

Here are some news stories of the event and issue:

More news from the world of Death Care:

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  1. Dean Fisher is one-hundred percent correct. I worked in Arizona where for-profit body donation concerns. These companies flourish simply because they give grieving families the carrot of a free cremation. Personally, I would gladly pay to have my loved one cremated instead of my loved one being used by legal butchers that make big bucks from anatomical sales.

  2. As a MN licensed Funeral Director, I proudly directed donated body programs at Mayo Clinic and UCLA for 32 years. The issue here are not the Universities who train Medical, Dental and Health Related Science students, it’s the for profit institutions that are selling body parts to medical device companies. All that is needed here is to hold everyone to the same standards. Medical schools have accreditation standards that prevent this, for profits don’t. It’s a money trail.

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