23 Apr, 14 | by Iain Brassington
There’s a provocative piece in a recent New Scientist about what happens to unclaimed bodies after death – about, specifically, the practice of coopting them for research purposes.
Gareth Jones, who wrote it, points out that the practice has been going on for centuries – but that a consequence of the way it’s done is that it tends to be the poor and disenfranchised whose corpses are used:
[T]he probably unintended and unforeseen result [of most policies] was to make poverty the sole criterion for dissection. [... U]nclaimed bodies are still used in countries including South Africa, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Brazil and India. While their use is far less in North America, they continue to constitute the source of cadavers in around 20 per cent of medical schools in the US and Canada. In some states in the US, unclaimed bodies are passed to state anatomy boards.
For Jones, the practice of cooption ought to be stopped. His main bone of contention is the lack of consent – it’s a problem that’s made more acute by the fact that the bodies of the disenfranchised are more likely to be unclaimed, but I take it that the basic concern would be there for all.
One question that we might want to ask right from the off is why informed consent is important. more…