Cadavers Get Personal
by Jackson Howard
statement on the street: Thoughts on the government shutdown?
~ VI___ ' on the record
ust as they do today, University
medical students in the mid-19th
century studied human cadavers
in the early stages of their medical train-
ing. Unlike today, though, the cadavers
those students studied were not donated
legally. Rather, they were acquired in a
decidedly illegal, morally questionable,
no-questions-asked manner reminiscent
of a horror movie.
In the 1860s, before amendments to the
Michigan Anatomy Act of 1875 allowed
easier access to cadavers for educational
rposes, the University procured cadav-
ers in every imaginable way, such as buy-
ing them with cash from random brokers
- with no knowledge of where they came
from - or even stealing them from anon-
ymous graves, according to Horace W.
Davenport's history of Michigan's medi-
cal school. According to Davenport, three
professional body snatchers were arrested
in Toledo, Ohio in 1878 after authorities
found they had a contract to ship about 130
bodies to - you guessed it - Ann Arbor,
a.day, the University's Anatomical
Donation Program - note the use of the
word "donation" - is legitimate, and is
certainly no longer robbing graves. Aided
by the state's Revised Uniform Anatomical
Gift Law and similar legislation in the past
60 years, the University's program accepts
over 300:gifts per year and has more than
7,000 future donors already registered.
In 1909, the original Michigan Anatomy
Act was revised, effectively providing the
University with nearly 100 legally obtained
bodies per year. Almost 100 years later,
RUAGL, (which stemmed from changes
to Michigan state legislature in 1958, 1969
and 1978), was enacted in 2009. RUAGL's
adoption in Michigan created near unifor-
mity across states in anatomical donation
law, in addition to simplifying the dona-
tion process and protecting donor intent.
Anatomical donations are essential for
medical students' education, as they are
oftentimes referred to as students' "first
patient." Anatomy courses rely on such
donations to provide their students with
first-hand knowledge of the basic struc-
ture of the human body, knowledge that
sees as the foundation for years of medi-
cal training ahead.
The donation process
The process of donating one's self to
we dicine is not as easy as dropping off a
body at the Medical School steps. There
are legal and procedural requirements
taken by both the donor and the University
to ensure the safety and legitimacy of the
body being donated.
The University keeps a strict proto-
col when dealing with anatomical gifts.
Once the donation has been permitted by
RUAGL - requirements including notifi-
cation to the donor's family, registration
with the University and proper delivery of
the body by a funeral home, among other
things - the donation is then inspected. In
order to be used in the classroom, the body
has to be in the proper state, meaning no
emaciation or obesity, no extensive burns
or mutilation and no history of contagious
In addition to physically clearing the
between the rigid process of studying
a cadaver in a medical context and the
innate emotion associated with the death
of a fellow human. How, then, do you
reconcile both the scientific and moral
aspects of a notion such as anatomical
donation - a concept that is truly without
One way the program is trying to bridge
this gap between the scientific and the
personal is a new initiative beginning
this year that allows donors to voluntarily
prerecord videotaped messages to accom-
pany their body. These video messages,
in which the donor is able to talk about
whatever he or she chooses, are played for
the students - again, voluntarily - before
"The University procured
cadavers in every imaginable
way, such as buying them with
cash from random brokers -
with no knowledge of where they
came from - or even stealing
them from anonymous graves.."
said Dean Mueller, the University's Ana-
tomical Donor Program coordinator. "Are
they doing it for personal reasons? Are
they doing it because they like our football
team? You never know. It can be so many
different dimensions, and it was interest-
ing to think, 'Why would you donate?'"
No matter the reasons behind the
donation, Mueller, the students and the
program's overall sentiment towards
its donors is one of humility and great
"You immediately feel an obligation to
accept the donation and use their body
for the best possible way that we can use
them, and to learn everything that we can
learn from them," Mueller said.
These feelings, along with others of
gratitude, admiration and honor, were
expressed repeatedly throughout the
Medical School's annual Donor Memo-
rial Service, held Sept. 18 in Rackham
The service itself is certainly unlike any
other type of memorial. The entire pro-
gram - from musical performers to ushers
- is staffed completely by current medical
and dental students, all dressed in white
lab coats, as a demonstration of respect
and thankfulness to the donor's families
in attendance. Several students gave short
personal remarks detailing their own per-
sonal experience with the donors and the
incredible learning experience that they
gained from the opportunity.
These students also expressed thanks
for the donor's gift. Students touched on
their inability to repay a donor's selfless-
ness and echoed Mueller's statement of
honoring their donor's legacy in the only
way they can: by becoming the best physi-
cians, dentists, nurses, physical therapists
and health professionals possible.
On the front of the program for the
memorial service, there is an inscription of
a Latin phrase that is also seen on a plaque
in the Anatomical Donations Program:
Hic Locus Est Ubi Mors Gaudet Succur-
rere Vitae. "This is the place where death
rejoices in coming to the aid of life."
It is this balance, of the dead helping the
living then the living paying respect back
to the dead, that makes anatomical dona-
tion one of the more fascinating and com-
plex processes in society.
"It's not even really about the students,"
Mueller said. "It's about humanity and
those student's impact. You can say that
(the donors) are giving (their bodies) to
the students - which, in a sense, they are
- but they're really just passing on some-
thing positive to the world."
"I think it's a symptom "It's silly that the Democrats "I don't want to give an
of a larger problem that weren't even willing to opinion because I don't
indicates bipartisan negotiate, and it's foolish of know exactly what's
action is necessary to the Republicans to bow to the happening. I would give
actually get something minority of their party and an opinion if I knew
done in D.C." push this issue this far." more about it."
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startingBig Ten play last week with competition.
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- ANDY CRAFT, LSA senior and Michigan in Washington
participant, about life in the capital after the government shutdown.
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hisfirsttime watching "BreakingBad."
'F The Detroit Tigers
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body, the University enforces privacy and
respect for the dead to the upmost extent,
as the bodies are never on display in the
open and are used solely for medical pur-
Getting to know the bodies
Though the program can be summed
up neatly in terms of its strict legality,
respectful procedure and clear necessity,
the human aspect of the process cannot be
ignored. These cadavers were, at one point,
the bodies of living, breathing people who
led real lives and, for whatever reason,
chose to donate their bodies to science.
Understandably, things become a little
murky when attempting to draw a line
they begin their dissection. Though it may
sound uncomfortable to watch the person
you are about to cut open talk about their
life via a video message, two studies from
2011 show that medical students actually
desire a more personal relationship with
Published in the journal "Anatomi-
cal Sciences Education," the studies led
by University alum Michael Bohl, found
74 percent of students and 81 percent of
donors surveyed said they would partici-
pate in the video-message program, while
the vast majority of students answered
that they wanted a deeper personal con-
nection with their donor.
"You really want to know what type
of person donates their body to science,"
After displaying its true inability to
compromise, Congress allowed a government
shutdown to take place on Tuesday for the first
time in 17 years. This means many employees
can't show up to work, and national parks,
monuments and many services are closed.
The show that claimed
Series at the Emmys
just a little over a week
ago went out with a bang
during its series finale.
The final episode had
10.3 million viewers
and, the series had a
in viewers from the
season four finale two
years ago, according to