What I remember most clearly is the smell. A sharp, nose-burning chemical odor permeated the air as my classmates and I filed into the anatomy laboratory at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in 1977.My cadaver was an elderly man. He was gray and shriveled from the fixative and, on the inside, slimy from an amalgam of fat and fluids. We spent many weeks together.
I don't know who he was or where he lived or why he donated his body. Lacking the skills I now have, I couldn't tell why he died.
But working day after day to remove skin, trace nerves and arteries and observe the relations of organ to organ and muscle to bone, I came to know him as no one else did, and he taught me as no one else could.
People occasionally inquire about donating their bodies for teaching or research. Many organizations deal with this, and Googling "body donation" on the computer results in a sizable list.
As I am partial to medical education, the following information comes from the Web site of the Colorado State Anatomical Board ( www.uchsc.edu/sab/index.htm), a statutory board made up of the deans of the schools of Medicine and Dentistry and chairs of the departments of Cellular and Structural Biology and Surgery at the University of Colorado.
Anyone of legal age and sound mind can donate, as can minors with parental consent.
Tell your family you have decided to donate. The board is "not inclined" to accept a body if someone objects or if there is "dissention" among family members.
Tell your funeral director. A funeral before donation is possible, but the funeral home must contact the Anatomical Board at the time of death to make sure everything is done correctly.
Other agencies may differ, but some conditions preclude acceptance by the Anatomical Board.
Bodies will not be accepted if:- An autopsy or recent surgery was performed.
- The deceased was in an accident.
- Organs (except eyes) were removed for donation to the living.
- The deceased had a dangerous, contagious disease.
- The body deteriorated after death.
- The gift was not registered with the Anatomical Board before death.
In most cases, the remains are cremated and interred after studies are concluded - a year or two after donation.
By statute, no payment can be made to the family or estate of the deceased. No report of findings is issued.
Everyone knows organs can be donated for transplant if the body is maintained on life support after fatal injury. Many of those not so maintained can still donate tissues, eyes and bones to the living.
Donation for education and research is less well-known but not less valuable or less appreciated, as I and all my medical colleagues can attest.
On display at the University of Colorado medical school is a memorial plaque dedicated to donors that reads, "In Gratitude: They became teachers in their way, and all have benefited by what they taught."
firstname.lastname@example.org Dr. Carol J. Huser, a forensic pathologist, has served as La Plata County coroner since January 2003.