Ever year in England alone, hundreds of people choose to donate their bodies to science. By doing this, they hope to help medical students increase their knowledge of the human body, and assist scientists in improving treatments for various health problems.
For example, stem cells are used in research to battle leukaemia, and other diseases of the blood, and donated brains can be used to further studies into degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s.
Some organisations are even starting to use donated parts for research into less well explored areas. In Massachusetts, America, The Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy conducts research into brain injuries sustained by athletes.
The term ‘donate your body to science’ is one often used when talking about people who have chosen to improve experts’ scientific knowledge of the human body, but in fact individuals can specify how they would like their body to be used after they have died.
Some might want to be taken to universities to be dissected by medical students, others might want to help practicing doctors perfect various medical techniques – better they get it wrong on someone deceased than during a real surgical procedure.
Recently, news websites have been stating that Thunderbird’s creator Gerry Anderson, who died on Boxing Day 2012, decided to donate his brain to Brains for Dementia Research.
He had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s little over than twelve months before, and had discussed the matter with his family. His son states that his father wanted to be of some use after his death. “He was very keen that he should not be buried, as he saw it as a waste of space,” he says.
He remembers that his father had stated that he had been taking his Alzheimer drugs “religiously”, and that according to him they had been “doing bugger all!”
Following a fundraising walk his son recalls his father saying, “The quicker they find a cure the better, so they are welcome to my brain.”
The donation has been very useful, states a spokesperson for Brains for Dementia Research, since “the anti-dementia drugs that are currently available were based on human brain research in the 1970s”.
At Brain Injury Group, we understand how difficult it can be living with the symptoms of a head trauma injury or neurological conditions affecting the mind, and hope that people continue to help science evolve its understanding of these health problems in whatever way they feel comfortable.