Who donates their body to science? An international, multicenter, prospective study

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Abstract

The altruistic act of body donation provides a precious resource for both teaching and researching human anatomy. However, relatively little is known about individuals who donate their bodies to science (donors), and in particular whether donors in different geographical locations share similar characteristics. A multicenter prospective survey of donors registering during 2010 in three different geographical locations, New Zealand, Ireland, and the Republic of South Africa, was conducted to identify donor characteristics. The 28-question survey included sections on body donation program awareness, reasons for donating, giving tendency, education, ethnicity, relationship status, occupation, religion, and political preference. Two hundred surveys (81%) were returned [New Zealand 123 (85% response rate), Republic of South Africa 41 (67%), and Ireland 36 (92%)]. Results indicate that donors share certain characteristics including reason for donating (80% cited a desire to aid medical science as the main reason for wishing to donate their body); family structure (most donors are or have been in long-term partnerships and ≥85% have siblings); and a higher proportion with no religious affiliation compared to their reference population. Some variations between locations were noted including donor age, the mode of program awareness, occupation, relationship status, political preference, organ donor status and with whom donors had discussed their decision to donate. This information could be important for assisting the identification of potential body donors in new and established bequest programs. Anat Sci Educ. © 2012 American Association of Anatomists.

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