George Washington University has admitted that it has lost the identity of as many as 50 donated bodies, making it impossible to return remains to families as promised. As a result, the school has stopped accepting donations.
This news comes after senior officials received a complaint in the fall from an employee about “irregularities” and a lack of oversight in the school’s Anatomical Donor Program. This launched an internal investigation that resulted in the departing of the program manager and the suspension of further donations. It is unknown whether the program manager resigned or was dismissed.
The university has long operated its “willed body donor program” allowing people to donate their bodies to the medical school, which uses between 30 and 40 cadavers per year. The list of donations is typically hundreds of names long. Bodies are used for two years in anatomy classes before they are cremated and returned to their family members.
According to the employee who made the report, bodies were often mislabeled or not labeled at all. While it is unlikely that the program will be reinstated, current students will not be affected because the school has enough cadavers from previous donations and on loan from other schools.
Medical school Dean Jeffrey Akman apologized in a statement released Friday, February 5. University officials have reported that they will attempt to use DNA testing to make identifications, but there are no guarantees that it will be effective in all cases.
Washington, D.C. residents who wish to donate their bodies are being asked to consider Howard or Georgetown Universities, or to consider donating their tissues to living patients. Prospective donors may also wish to consider an arrangement with Donate Life.
This is not the first time that George Washington University has found itself in hot water. The school was placed on academic probation by its accrediting body between 2008 and 2010, becoming the only medical school on probation out of 129 accredited institutions in the country. Accreditors decided to place the school on probation after finding numerous problems with the school’s curriculum management and administrative paperwork.
Dr. Michael M. Wilson is an attorney and a physician who earned his undergraduate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his legal and medical degrees from Georgetown University. He has focused in the area of medical malpractice for more than three decades and secured more than $100 million in settlements and verdicts on behalf of clients throughout the country. He is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and New York as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and the U.S. Supreme Court. He is listed in America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators.