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Who are They?

Who donates their bodies for the sake of science? According to Ronn Wade, director of the Maryland State Anatomy Board, most are females, have at least a high school education, and put their wish to become donors into writing when they are between the ages of 60 and 75 years. Some stipulate a specific institution on the donor forms, and the Board usually honors those wishes. Most cadavers have been dead for eight to 12 months before they reach the anatomy classroom.

Established to advance medical study within the state’s medical schools, the Board maintains a file of some 20,000 donors. Each year it sends about 300 prepared cadavers to the state’s medical and dental schools and physical therapy programs.

Once they have been through dissection, the cadavers are individually cremated and buried. Donors can stipulate that their ashes be returned to families and loved ones for private disposition. On the third Monday in June, the state of Maryland pays tribute to the donors at a memorial service.