Couple fulfills last wish by donating their bodies for education and research
The last wish of Creighton graduates Mary Margaret Bradley Wolters, SCN’51, and her husband, Don Wolters, MD’51, was to donate their bodies to the School of Medicine for education and research purposes.
Creighton receives about 90 donated bodies each year for use in the Department of Biomedical Sciences. Bodies typically arrive six months after death and after they have been cleared through the Anatomical Board of the State of Nebraska.
Thomas Quinn, PhD, director of Creighton’s Clinical Anatomy Program, said in the course of a year, nearly all of Creighton’s health sciences students will work with or observe work on a donated body.
“We generally refer to the donated body as the first patient,” Quinn says. “We encourage the students to use the person’s first name and there’s a form of HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that keeps medical records private) involved. It’s a lesson in professionalism as well as anatomy.”
After the year the bodies spend in the lab, Creighton hosts a memorial service for families, where students are able to talk with loved ones and share their gratitude for the deceased family member’s donation.
Without the donors, Quinn says, lessons on human anatomy can only go so far. “All in all, it really is a beautiful thing,” he says. “The bodies are some of our best teachers. There’s nothing to compare with being able to use the whole body and see how it works. It really does get you ready for practice. We talk at Creighton about finding God in all things and the donation and the anatomy lab is a good place to look. You can see how people, after they’re gone, are helping teach our students to keep us alive and well.”