Questions for David Lee

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Durring the summer of 2006 David Lee answered visitor questions about body donation and human anatomy.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

From the Museum Floor's picture

How often do bodies that are donated found to have diseases (like cancer) that did not cause their death?

posted on Thu, 08/10/2006 - 8:22am
Dave Lee's picture
Dave Lee says:

That is a very interesting question. When a person is very ill and knows that they are going to die, they will often refuse medical tests and treatments, or may be too sick or weak for the tests. At the time of death, the doctor must list a cause of death (for the death certificate) from the medical conditions that have been diagnosed and treated.
During the anatomy studies we sometimes find other diseases, tumors or problems that developed before death, but were not officially diagnosed. I can not say exactly how often this happens, but it is not uncommon.

Dave Lee

posted on Wed, 08/16/2006 - 6:56pm
From the Museum Floor's picture

How do you sign up to be a body donor? Does it cost any money?

posted on Thu, 08/10/2006 - 8:22am
Dave Lee's picture
Dave Lee says:

Two Medical Schools in Minnesota, the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic, each have donor programs. You may contact either or both of the programs asking for the information and donor forms. To reach the Mayo Clinic, call 507 284 2201. The number for the University is 612 625 1111 and the WEB site for the University Bequest Program is http://www.bequest.umn.edu/

The following answer is for the Bequest Program at the University only. At the time of death, we allow the family a time to say their last good bye, either at the place of death, or the family may make arrangements for a funeral. We then arrange for the transportation of the body to the University at program expense. We file a death certificate for the family so that they may settle estate matters, bbut the family must pay for the certified copies they need. Following our studies we cremate the body. We offer the family two options for the cremated remains, either return the cremated remains for a family arranged final disposition, or the University will bury the cremated remains in University grave space.

The only expenses for a family are death certificate copies and family arranged services at the time of the death or following our studies.

Dave Lee

posted on Wed, 08/16/2006 - 7:36pm
From the Museum Floor's picture

If I donate my body to the University of Minnesota's anatomy bequest program, can I choose what it is used to research?

posted on Thu, 08/10/2006 - 8:23am
Dave Lee's picture
Dave Lee says:

The Anatomy Bequest Program brings bodies to the University for anatomy education and to support physician training and research. We do not allow donors to specify what specifically we will use their body for, but the Anatomy Bequest Donor form does allows the donor three options:
1. No restrictions (if selecting this option do not check the options below)

2. The University may not retain any structures for permanent preservation.

3. My body may not be used away from the University of Minnesota

Our studies are always done respecting the donor and the restrictions that they and their family may have. All of our students are given an orientation that includes information about the donation process as well as the medical information about the donor.

Dave Lee

posted on Thu, 08/17/2006 - 6:53pm
From the Museum Floor's picture

Why do you think people donate their bodies to science?

posted on Thu, 08/10/2006 - 8:25am
Dave Lee's picture
Dave Lee says:

We have the privilege of talking with most of our donors when they call asking for information. Our donors are very ultraistic people, wanting to make a gift that will benefit mankind following their death. Donors come from every segment of society, from all educational backgrounds and from every economic status. Several of our donors write letters that they ask us to share with the students during our studies. In these letters they often state some of their medical problems, and their reasons for the donation mostly speak of a desire to help or to make an impact following their death.

The faculty that lead our anatomy courses guide and direct the students, but when the students meet with families at the annual Anatomy Memorial Service each fall, our students refer to the bodies that they study in the anatomy labs as their teachers.

We are very appreciative for each donor and each family... without the donor’s gift and the families consent, we could not teach as we do.

Dave Lee

posted on Thu, 08/17/2006 - 7:16pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

How many donors do you get a year? Is that enough to meet the demand for cadavers for the medical school?

posted on Tue, 08/15/2006 - 11:21am
Dave Lee's picture
Dave Lee says:

The University of Minnesota receives between 180 and 200 donations each year. With the growing need for anatomy education and the training of health care professionals, we have an increasing need for more donations. We do receive legitimate requests for anatomy access each year that we cannot meet at the present time.

Dave Lee

posted on Thu, 08/17/2006 - 6:59pm
From the Museum Floor's picture

Are unclaimed bodies in Minnesota given to the U of M medical school? Or, do you know what happens to them?

posted on Thu, 08/17/2006 - 2:52pm
Dave Lee's picture
Dave Lee says:

The Medical School at the University of Minnesota has not received an unclaimed body for many years. The 87 counties in Minnesota try very hard to identify the next of kin when a death has occurred, and even with all of the search tools/options available today, this may take days or even weeks.

Counties have assistance programs for individuals who die without resources for final disposition, and funeral homes provide services for these people. If next of kin eventually do look for the person, the state vital records department and the county can direct them to the funeral home that made the arrangements for the final disposition.

Dave Lee

posted on Thu, 08/31/2006 - 8:44am
Dave Lee's picture
Dave Lee says:

The Medical School at the University of Minnesota has not received an unclaimed body for many years. The 87 counties in Minnesota try very hard to identify the next of kin when a death has occurred, and even with all of the search tools/options available today, this may take days or even weeks.

Counties have assistance programs for individuals who die without resources for final disposition, and funeral homes provide services for these people. If next of kin eventually do look for the person, the state vital records department and the county can direct them to the funeral home that made the arrangements for the final disposition.

Dave Lee

posted on Thu, 08/31/2006 - 8:44am
From the Museum Floor's picture

Why do you think "opt-in" donation programs (you tell your family and health care providers that you want to donate) are considered more ethical than "opt-out" programs (it's assumed that you want to donate unless you specifically tell someone that you don't)?

posted on Thu, 08/17/2006 - 2:53pm
Dave Lee's picture
Dave Lee says:

Mary faith Marshall answered this question very well when she was the Scientist on the Spot, and I encourage you to go back to her answer. I would like to add that in the Anatomy Bequest Program we require that the next of kin with the highest degree of kinship give consent to the donation at the time of death. We believe that informed consent is very important and that the family be in agreement with the donation. We follow up after the verbal consent with written correspondence that provides more information for the family and a signed, written consent from the family for the donation and our anatomy studies at the University.

Dave Lee

posted on Thu, 08/31/2006 - 5:42pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Are children's bodies ever donated?

posted on Fri, 08/18/2006 - 11:47am
Dave Lee's picture
Dave Lee says:

Many years ago, the Anatomy Bequest Program at the University of Minnesota did receive the bodies of infants. At the time of death of an infant, families were sometimes offered donation as an option by the hospital where the death occurred. The belief of many in health care at the time was that the mom and family should go home and move ahead with their lives. Grief at the loss of a newborn was not understood, and in fact was minimized. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mom did go home, but never forgot about the birth and death of that child. In the late 1970's, the Bequest Program contacted hospitals and encouraged them to help grieving families make funeral and final disposition arrangements for these infants with a local funeral home. The infants that were received from hospital donation programs were not studied but were rather cremated by the university.

Dave Lee

posted on Thu, 08/31/2006 - 8:46am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Is there an age limit (too young or too old) that a body can be donated?

posted on Sun, 08/20/2006 - 10:12am
Dave Lee's picture
Dave Lee says:

The age limit for donation to the Anatomy Bequest program is 21 and up. There is not an upper age restriction. In fact the vast majority of our donors are in their seventies and older.

Dave Lee

posted on Thu, 08/31/2006 - 8:48am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

when you donate your body, how long before the family gets the remains back?

posted on Tue, 08/22/2006 - 11:43am
Dave Lee's picture
Dave Lee says:

Studies at the University of Minnesota average 18 months from the time of death until our studies have been completed. We do make this very clear on the form at the time of donation as well as with the family at the time of death. We realize that for some families, this can be a long time, and we will do all that we can to help a family as they wait for our studies to be completed. Many families find that coming to the annual Anatomy Memorial Service helps them when our students say thank you for the privilege of studying the human body. Several hundred persons attend the service each year. If you would like more information about the next service, which will be in November of 2006, please contact the Anatomy Bequest Program.

Dave Lee

posted on Thu, 08/31/2006 - 8:50am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

What is the process, or, what happens to a body after it is donated?

posted on Thu, 08/31/2006 - 3:47pm