CADAVERS

UW-Madison medical students dissect cadavers. Many medical schools accept a person's body as a donation after he or she dies, including the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Q: How and where can I donate my body for scientific purposes after I die?

A: Many medical schools accept a person’s body as a donation after he or she dies, including the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and the Medical College of Wisconsin.

People who wish to donate their bodies upon their death can fill out online or printed registry forms with either school.

When a body is donated to a medical school, that body is used by instructors and students for dissection and study of human organs, tissues and systems.

“The learning of anatomy in medical school is a unique, irreplaceable and privileged part of a physician’s training,” Todd Hoagland, body donation director at the Medical College of Wisconsin, said in an online letter. “This rite of passage is something many medical students look forward to with trepidation and reflect back upon with awe and thanks.”

There are some cases in which bodies would not be accepted. People who were either severely obese or emaciated, people with infectious diseases like hepatitis or HIV/AIDS and bodies with advanced decomposition may be turned down.

Bodies that have been autopsied or have had major organs removed for organ donation transplants could also be denied.

When a donor dies, the next of kin should contact the donation program the individual was registered with as soon as possible to transport the body.

The bodies may be used for study for a period not usually longer than three years, according to both programs.

When studies are complete, both schools cremate the bodies. Cremains can be requested by the family, or they could be buried at the schools.

— Shelley K. Mesch

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Shelley K. Mesch is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal. She earned a degree in journalism from DePaul University.

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