BUFFALO, N.Y. – Increased social acceptance, economic
considerations and the fact that more baby boomers are dying have
significantly increased the number of people opting to leave their
bodies to medical science.
“Anatomical donation is becoming more acceptable and
people are more comfortable with it,” says Ray Dannenhoffer,
PhD, associate dean for support services and director of the
University at Buffalo’s Anatomical Gift Program. “As
baby boomers grow older, there are more people of dying age, so
demographics also play a role.”
On Thursday, June 19, more than 500 family members of people who
have donated their bodies to the University at Buffalo School of
Medicine and Biomedical Sciences will attend a memorial service to
commemorate loved ones whose ashes were interred in a communal
grave. UB holds the service every other year; other families choose
to have the ashes of their loved one returned to them or buried in
a service that they arrange.
The memorial service features testimony by UB medical students
who speak compassionately about how the anatomical gifts have
informed and enhanced their medical education. “When our
medical students speak, they always hit it right out of the park
about their gratitude to the donors,” says Dannenhoffer.
Media are invited to attend the memorial service at 10:30
a.m. on June 19 at Skinnersville Cemetery on the UB North
Campus. (See map at http://www.smbs.buffalo.edu/agp/images/map_newman.gif.)
The service concludes with the release of dozens of butterflies.
A reception will follow. Press arrangements: Ellen Goldbaum
at 716-645-4605 or 716-771-9255 on-site.
“Through this memorial service, UB is clearly
communicating to donors and their families how much UB faculty and
students value these unique and extraordinary gifts,” says Jo
Wiederhorn, president of the Associated Medical Schools of New
York. She notes that New York has some of the strictest rules
governing anatomical donations. “Individuals and families
considering such donations can be confident that they are handled
with the utmost, care, sensitivity and respect.”
The increased interest at UB also is caused by economic
considerations, says Dannenhoffer. “There are no costs to
families donating a loved one’s body to the UB medical
school, so long as the body is located within 100 miles of
UB,” he says. Families or estates are charged only if the
distance is more than 100 miles.
Dannenhoffer adds that increased interest in anatomical
donations stems, in part, from increased public awareness efforts,
including identification of organ donors on driver’s
Anatomical donation programs themselves also are getting better
at educating the public. “Twenty years ago, nobody talked
about it,” says Dannenhoffer. “But now, medical school
anatomical gift programs are doing a much better job of making it
clear to the families how necessary these donations are and how
much the medical students and faculty respect, honor and revere the
Programs are paying more attention to the ways that they can
demonstrate appreciation to donor families. UB families will
receive mementos at this week’s service to commemorate their
loved one’s donation.
Upon enrolling in the program, UB donors also receive a pin or
magnet that says “Greatest teacher,” signifying that
they are helping to enhance medical education.
These factors contribute to the fact that UB now has the largest
program in the state by far. “We get 500 donations a year and
it’s all word of mouth. We do no advertising,” says
Dannenhoffer. He notes that the next largest program in the state
receives approximately half that number.
Following a UB memorial service a few years ago, an individual
who learned about it made a $100,000 bequest to the anatomical gift
“Part of the reason that UB’s program is so large is
that people in Western New York are very generous,”
Dannenhoffer says. “And UB picks up all expenses. Once
enrolled in the program, donors know that UB will accept their
donation without restrictions. Other programs may have
restrictions, but we are the most flexible. We feel like we have a
contract with the donors. We think it’s the right thing to