P&S Journal: Fall 1995, Vol.15, No.3
Cadaver Shortage Jeopardizes Teaching
A shortage of cadavers at P&S threatens the lab experience for human anatomy students, says Dr. Ernest April, associate professor and director of clinical anatomy.
"Right now we're 20 cadavers shy for this year," Dr. April says. "Unless I can get 20 in, it looks like we're looking at going to six students per cadaver instead of five. That's going to impact severely on what the students get out of it. Six around a lab table is a lot."
Dr. April attributes the shortage to several factors, including competition for cadavers from other area academic medical centers and recent legislation that has resulted in fewer "unclaimed individuals" for possible donation. The minimum adequate supply of cadavers at P&S is 54. The count taken at the beginning of summer stood at 34.
"Thirty years ago we got most of our cadavers as unclaimed from city mortuaries," Dr. April says. "For the last 20 years that source has dried up. Today, public agencies require counties to bury anyone who has no funds or can't afford the funds for burial. It's a national problem."
To remedy this situation, Dr. April calls on his colleagues and alumni to encourage anatomical donation when appropriate.
Those who pledge their bodies to science often find it satisfying to think that their bodies will be useful after death, Dr. April says. "It's not something that should be suggested to everybody, but there are times. If each of our alumni could steer one donation toward us every five years or 10 years, it would be more than enough to meet our needs."
Bodies for donation should not be autopsied or embalmed. After completion of the studies, the remains are returned to the family or cremated and interred at the Greenwood Cemetery with no expense to the family.
"We'll transport free within 150 miles, but if you're out of the New York area, donate to the nearest medical school," Dr. April says.
Each spring students follow the study of bodies with a memorial service in Pauline Hartford Chapel. "There, students and staff offer thanks and appreciation, each in his or her own way, for themselves and for the donor's gift on behalf of their future patients," Dr. April says.
Information about arranging a donation to P&S may be obtained by calling (212) 305-3600.