Medical school body donor program shut down

Updated: Feb. 6, 2016 at 2:10 p.m.

GW’s body donor program is no longer accepting donations after officials were unable to identify and return ashes to families, the dean of the medical school said Friday.

Jeffrey Akman, the dean of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, said in a statement that officials shut down the program after discovering that ashes of donors were misidentified. He said the individual responsible for managing the program no longer works for the University.

The statement was released following questions from The Hatchet.

The program accepted the cadavers of individuals who wished to donate their bodies to the medical school and was housed in the department of anatomy and regenerative biology. Students learned using the bodies to get a realistic understanding of how the human body works.

Akman said in the release that medical school officials learned last fall that management of the program was not fulfilling the standards that “donors and their families deserve and expect nor what I would expect as dean.” He said officials then stopped accepting donations and began an internal review of the program.

“It is with deep regret that I report that, despite exhaustive efforts, we have been unable to make a positive identification of certain donor bodies and as a result are unable to return ashes to some families who have requested them,” Akman said in the statement.

Akman said the school has contacted the families of the donors who they “believe may be affected by the program irregularities.”

“Our foremost concern has been the families who so generously honored their loved ones’ desire to donate their bodies to science and medical education,” Akman said in an email. “We have been working very hard to reconcile the records, and we will answer any questions from family members privately.”

The dean’s office is now handling oversight and management of the program, according to the release.

“As the dean and as a former medical student whose education benefitted greatly from the altruism of a body donor, I extend my deepest and most sincere apologies to all of the affected families and the entire SMHS community,” Akman said.

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