• Question: Do you ask the person before they die if you can dissect them?

    Asked by Grace to Lindsay on 18 May 2015.
    • Photo: K. Lindsay Hunter

      K. Lindsay Hunter answered on 18 May 2015:

      Great question! Today, we have very strict rules governing the use of human subjects (living and/or dead) in scientific research. An individual (or their family) will donate their body to an approved medical program, usually prior to death. It’s actually not always a simple process, though, because you must meet health and weight criteria before you can be accepted into the program (to make sure there are no communicable diseases and that you won’t be too heavy to lift without machinery once you are embalmed). Once the anatomical gift has been used, families can opt to have cremated remains of their loved one returned to them. Most medical schools also hold really moving ceremonies each year to celebrate the gifts that body donors have given them and how their gifts help the future of science.

      You can find out more about the Deeded Body Program at the University of Iowa where I worked: