Medical Schools-Body Donations
Angela McArthur, right, director of the Anatomy Bequest Program at the University of Minnesota Medical School, walks with Jean Larson, widow of a donor, in Minneapolis on Aug. 11, 2016.
Andy Clayton-King—AP
August 17, 2016 1:12 PM EDT

A number of medical schools around the country have seen an increase in people donating their bodies to science after death.

Some institutions, including the University of Minnesota and the University at Buffalo, have seen the number of donated cadavers double in the last decade, the Associated Press reports. The reason for the spike seems to be twofold: The idea of allowing a loved one’s corpse to be carved up is no longer as much of a taboo, and the cost of a traditional burial has increased. Many schools that use cadavers for medical research cremate the body when they are done and often return the cremains to the family at no cost.

When it comes to understanding the human anatomy and practicing surgical techniques, using a real human cadaver is infinitely more useful to medical students than plastic, rubber or virtual alternatives, experts say. “There’s no substitute for the real thing, because ultimately these people are going to be taking care of patients,” Dr. Michael Zenn, a surgery professor at Duke, told the AP. “It’s just a priceless donation.”


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