Medical schools in the state of New York will no longer be accepting unclaimed bodies from city medical examiners to be used as research cadavers.
Representing the 16 medical schools in the state, Associated Medical Schools of New York announced that instead of accepting these unclaimed bodies, schools will rely on donor programs.
"Donating your body to science is the ultimate gift a person can make," AMSNY President Jo Wiederhorn said in a statement. "We can't train future doctors without these donations and, in many cases, we can't make medical discoveries that lead to cures and life improvements without them."
At the same time, the group has withdrawn its opposition to a bill that recently passed in the state that puts an end to the educational use of bodies with no known survivors. Written consent from a spouse of next of kin will now be required before city officials are allowed to release an unclaimed body to a school. The bill is currently awaiting the signature of Governor Andrew Cuomo before it can become law, reports Glenn Blain for The New York Daily News.
An investigation by The New York Times found that current law in the state offers just 48 hours or less for families to claim the body of a relative before it must be made available by the city for embalming or dissection.
In all, at least 4,000 bodies have been offered by the city to medical or mortuary programs over the past decade. Out of these, more than 1,877 were taken before being placed in mass graves on Hart Island. The island is home to more than a million men, women, and children who have been placed in mass graves there since 1869 after becoming city property.
Medical schools in the state, which educate more students than schools in any other state, have seen a decrease in the need for unclaimed bodies recently as the body donations program continues to grow. Despite this, the group previously announced their opposition to the bill, saying the program is typically 38 bodies short of the 800 used to teach students each year.
However, after results from the investigation were released, the group changed their minds, saying schools can make up the body shortage through promotion of their body donation programs. Medical schools have historically shared donated cadavers with schools that do not have enough, which will now be especially helpful for the two schools who have only just started a body donation program, CUNY College of Medicine and Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, writes Nina Bernstein for The New York Times.
The American Academy McAllister Institute of Funeral Services, the only mortuary school in the city, is now the last school left searching for a veto.
"McAllister is recommending and pleading with the governor to not sign the bill," said Brian Sokoloff, the lawyer who represents the mortuary school. "Those who support this bill should explain how they expect people to be able to do the practice embalmings that they're required to do to get a license," Mr. Sokoloff said, calling the proposed law "a terrible idea."