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Can’t pay for burial? Cook County morgue to donate bodies to science

Grieving families who can’t afford a burial will see their loved ones’ remains donated to science unless they object under a controversial Cook County rule, officials said.

Bodies will be kept at the county morgue for just two weeks before they are handed to a non-profit organization that supplies them to universities for research and use in anatomy classes, Medical Examiner Nancy Jones wrote in a memo to staff last week.

Unclaimed remains — which the county has also previously paid $300 to bury in a pauper’s grave in Homewood — will also be kept for only two weeks, then donated, effective immediately.

The Anatomical Gift Association signed a deal to receive the bodies under the 1885 Illinois Cadaver Act. Its executive vice-president Paul Dudek says the remains are needed to fill a shortage of donors willing to leave their cadavers. The AGA received 600 requests for cadavers last year but only 483 usable donations.

Whatever happened to the human side of medicine? These are people too. I feel like these people are being turned into commodities. Inanimate products. They have families, they have loved ones and friends. They should get a say in something like this. Power of Attorney? I’m trying to wrap my head around this. If I was back in first year (god forbid) and was faced with a cadaver that had even the remote possibility of being there without consent, how awkward would I feel? I’d feel like I’m actually desecrating a body. Like I just took zir from a grave and bam. It’s for medical science. 

"A gift of the human body." A gift. From that point on, we treat this body with care and are thankful for what they gave us. At the end of our first year (and thusly completing anatomy) we have a cadaver memorial to thank those who’ve donated their bodies to science and the families that allowed them to do so. But to thank someone who didn’t even have a choice? I’m sorry, there’s no honor in that. There’s no respect there. There’s no human side there. 

While I understand the need for human bodies in medical science (what they give is irreplaceable - computers can’t do that), this is not the way to go. 

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