Official Statements

Body Donation (2010)

Statement with regard to the practice of selling anatomical specimens on the international market

Anatomy deals with the structure of the human body. For students of medicine and doctors a profound knowledge of anatomy is essential. It is most suitable to use the human body after death for studying anatomy, for instance in the dissection course during the medical education and in training courses for surgeons and doctors in subjects like radiology. Many individuals donate their bodies after death to the institutes of anatomy to ensure medical education and clinical training. In Europe and in many other countries world-­‐wide the donation of the body is regulated in a specific legacy. The body donor asks an institute of anatomy, mostly in a university closely located to the donor’s place of residence. It is defined how the body of the dead individual is transported to the institute of anatomy and how the funeral of the body is organised after its use for education and training. Some institutes of anatomy ask the donors to contribute to the costs of the funeral. Furthermore, the specific legacy contains the donor’s agreement or objection to the preservation of parts of his or her body as permanent specimens for the anatomical collection. These parts of the body are then not buried. The Anatomische Gesellschaft, the organisation representing the institutes of anatomy and the scientists working in anatomical research, has a clear-­‐cut principle, which is indispensable for using anatomical specimens: the body donor must agree to the donation on a purely voluntary basis, and this agreement has to be put down in the written legacy. The origin of the specimens must be provable conclusively. The Anatomische Gesellschaft is worried by the growing practice of selling anatomical specimens on the international market. These specimens often have their origin in countries in which the jurisdiction and ethical views concerning body donation differs from European standards. This distribution of anatomical specimens is irreconcilable with a trustful relationship between the body donor and the anatomical institutes. The Anatomische Gesellschaft asks scientist, teachers of anatomy, students and the interested public to disapprove of the trading in anatomical specimens. It must be a principle that specimens are only taken from body donors who have agreed in a written specific legacy in favour of anatomical research and teaching.

May 2010