April 2012

International Study on Characteristics of Body Donors

Sat, 21 April 12 09:00

Gary PerryThe staff and students of the UCD School of Medicine & Medical Science have for many years benefited from generous donations made through the School's Body Donation Programme.  This programme contributes greatly to teaching and research in medical science, and to the educational experience of the next generation of doctors, radiographers, nurses and physiotherapists. 

A report on the characteristics of people who donate their bodies to science, published this month in Anatomical Science Education, has found that Irish donors tend to share certain characteristics, including a desire to aid medical science and a tendency to be in long-term partnerships. The study also found that body donors are more likely to have no religious affiliation than the general population.

The study, entitled ‘Who Donates their Body to Science? An International, Multicentre, Prospective Study’, is the first of its kind to survey the characteristics of living body donors. Registered donors were surveyed in Ireland, South Africa and New Zealand and the findings are based on 200 complete responses (81 per cent of the total). The research was carried out in collaboration with the University of Otago, New Zealand and the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

The findings suggest that although the majority of body donors are in long-term partnerships, Irish donors are more likely to be single compared with donors in other countries; 29 per cent of Irish respondents are single, compared with 12 per cent in South Africa and 5 per cent in New Zealand.

The report also suggests that Irish body donors are less likely to state a religious affiliation than the general population; 24 per cent of Irish respondents stated no religious affiliation.

The overwhelming majority of respondents (80 per cent) cited a desire to aid medical science as the primary reason for wishing to donate their body. A dislike of funerals or concern about the cost of funeral arrangements (16 per cent) was the next most common reason.

The research suggests that donors are generally aware of body donation programmes for nine to twelve years prior to registering their bequest. Irish donors reported a high rate (22 per cent) of internet-derived awareness in contrast with New Zealand donors (2 per cent) and South Africa (nil).

According to Gary Perry, co-author of the study and Body Donation Officer at UCD School of Medicine and Medical Science, the research sought to understand more clearly the motivations and characteristics of body donors.

“People who donate their bodies to science are a small but hugely valued and appreciated group, yet we know remarkably little about the motivations and characteristics of donors. For many years, some medical schools have struggled with fewer donations, and this research may help us to increase donations by understanding and communicating more effectively with people who are likely to be interested in bequeathing their bodies to medical science,” said Mr. Perry. 

The School is eternally indebted to the many individuals who choose to donate their bodies to clinical education and to the families who support this generous gift.  The UCD School of Medicine & Medical Science holds memorial services to honour and thank family and friends for their contribution to medical education and knowledge. 

The Human Anatomy group welcomes new enquiries to the Body Donation Programme which can be made, in the strictest confidence, to Mr Gary Perry at +353 1 716 6617 or at gary.perry@ucd.ie. More information on the UCD Body Donor programme is available here.

Scientific Paper:

Who Donates their Body to Science? An International, Multicentre, Prospective Study by Jon Cornwall, Gary F. Perry, Graham Louw, Mark D. Stringer: 16th April 2012 [Online], Anatomical Science Education