Moral Considerations in Body Donation for Scientific Research: A Unique Look at the University of Tennessee's Anthropological Research Facility
Christensen, Angi M.
Bioethics 2006 June; 20(3): 136-145
This paper discusses keys to the moral procurement, treatment and disposition of remains used for scientific research, specifically those donated to the University of Tennessee's Anthropological Research Facility (ARF). The ARF is an outdoor laboratory dedicated to better understanding the fate of human remains in forensic contexts, and focuses its research on decomposition, time since death estimates, body location and recovery techniques, and skeletal analysis. Historically, many donations were unclaimed bodies received from medical examiners (although it will be shown that this trend is changing), and it has been argued that the use of the unclaimed bodies for medical or scientific purposes is a violation of autonomy since no consent was given by the individual. It is argued here, however, that the domain of autonomous choice extends to one's own corpse only insofar as expressed wishes are made known prior to one's death, and that in the absence of expressed intent toward final disposition, it is acceptable for institutions to receive donations from medical examiners or family members. This paper also discusses other philosophical issues related to donation, consent and autonomy, and the forensic benefits of research conducted at the Anthropological Research Facility.
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