Current Affairs

Families turn to donating bodies to medical research in financial climate

With the global recession having hit the pockets of Europeans hard, and with unemployment and national debt leaving little expense for funeral services, it seems that many Spanish people are taking alternative measures.

Families in Spain have turned to donating their bodies to medical research to escape costly funerals, but this method has proved so popular that some universities now have to turn away potential donors.

As becoming a medical research cadaver is the only viable death option for some families, the University of Barcelona’s medical school’s José Luis Ramón, who is in charge of donations, said people registering to donate their bodies has increased this year by nearly 25 per cent, adding: “One woman wanted to know how much she would save, including the cost of gas.”

When screening donors, some also wanted Mr Ramón to confirm that the university would pay for the transport of their bodies from the hospital to the laboratory.

Thousands of Spanish families are voluntarily giving up funeral plots, having to revert to paying for them in monthly instalments or being evicted from them and, as elder citizens don’t want to burden loved ones with the cost of their death, they are turning to free options.

A typical Spanish funeral costs about £ 2,428, including the cost of an embalmer and the transport of the body to the funeral home and cemetery, but many are opting for cheaper £800 funerals; cut-rate coffins made from composite wood; or cremation in order to save on transportation costs if the death occurred a distance away from the person’s hometown.

Antonio Crespo, director of morphological science at Santiago de Compostela University, said the university had received so many donation applications this year that it was now referring would-be donors to Valencia Medical School, about 600 miles away.

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