About 1.5 million Americans are likely to die this year, but only about 5,000 bodies will be donated for medical research.
To combat the shortage of donors, the NIU Department of Biological Sciences is asking people to bequest their body after death to NIU medical research.
Christopher Hubbard, associate biology professor, said he realizes this is a very sensitive issue, but he wants prospective donors to know “they will be doing the students a great service.”
If people choose to donate their bodies, students will gain valuable experience, he said. The physical therapy program and the physical education program use the cadavers to educate students about the normal human anatomy.
Hubbard said the classes conducted each year require eight cadavers for research. The program does not use the bodies of animals because their anatomy is not comparable to that of humans.
If people bequest their remains to NIU, costs for processing bodies can be saved. Hubbard said the biology department receives bodies from a company in Chicago, but the bodies are expensive to obtain due to the costs of processing the body. He said that it is “illegal to sell or pay money for human tissues.”
The donor program tries to accommodate both the donor and the remaining family members. For instance, the donor may relinquish his declaration of consent if he changes his mind.
The program also allows the family to hold funeral services for their loved one before the body is delivered to the university. NIU pays for the cost of embalming and transportation if it is within a 100-mile radius.
Hubbard said the shortage of donors might be due to people not liking the idea or considering the practice morbid. Others might be afraid of being recognized.
NIU is well underway to having enough donors for research. Since the program started last year, Hubbard said NIU has received four or five consent forms from possible donors.
When the school is finished with the cadaver, it might be transported to River Hills in Batavia for cremation or returned to the hometown for burial.
Those interested in the program must complete a declaration of consent form that designates NIU as the recipient of the cadaver. Those interested can call 753-7824 or 753-0427 or write to the biology department. All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.