Cadaver Handling and Use Procedures Statement
All bequeathed human bodies are used for education or research purposes only. In addition to Indiana University School of Medicine, we provide bodies to other institutions within Indiana, including the eight IU Centers for Medical Education, for educational or research purposes, as we are charged by law to do. The bodies are transported to the site of use, and returned directly to us by a funeral director when the studies are completed.
We keep detailed accounting of the status and location of all anatomical material, and all of it is returned to us for individual cremation when the educational or research need is complete. The cremated remains then are either returned to the family, or are buried at Crown Hill Cemetery, depending on the family's preference. The burial follows a Memorial Service that takes place annually in October at Crown Hill. As you can see, all bodies are distributed by us directly to the place of use, and returned to us when the studies are complete. This procedure differs quite dramatically from procedures at some other institutions that dispense anatomical materials through "brokers" and middlemen. The Anatomical Education Program doesn't do that.
There are several elements to our program to ensure that the bodies are treated with respect and dignity.
- During the first day of medical or dental anatomy, the course directors instruct their students that the bodies they use in lab have been bequeathed for use in its teaching and research programs, and that those who made this selfless decision intended to make a significant contribution to their medical education. We make the point that these were individuals, with families of their own who loved them.
- The directors also discuss the process of how donations are made and what happens to the bodies once the course is completed, including mention of the Memorial Service. Many of the students respond by treating the body as their first patient, adopting a doctor-patient attitude.
We emphasize the importance of proper care and respect for the bodies and student responsibility for maintaining proper professional conduct in this regard. We make a special point to instruct them on the proper handling and disposal of dissected tissues. Tissues from each cadaver must remain with that same cadaver, and all cadavers are cremated individually.
The Memorial Service held each October for the families of donors is sponsored by the Anatomical Education Program and the Department of Chaplaincy and Pastoral Education at Indiana University Health. It is a well attended service and much appreciated by family members. Some of the most meaningful comments come from student representatives (medical, dental and physical therapy students) who share their reflections on what this experience meant to them and their professional development as future health care providers.