Bioethics Blogs

The Aftergift

“… and maybe then you’ll hear the words I’ve been singing;
Funny, when you’re dead how people start listen’n…”
If I Die Young (2010)
by The Band Perry

It was in the fall of 2015 that I received a call from a Mrs. Jones.  She went on to detail how her husband, Robert, had died from cancer and donated his body to our anatomy lab in 2006.  She further explained that she and her children had finally come to terms with his passing and now, 9 years later, were finally ready to spread his ashes at the family cemetery plot.  She stated that she wanted to hold a ceremony and perhaps have the students that worked on her husband write something about their experience that could be read at the service…

I went on to explain that, although we kept thorough records and could account for her husband, we really did not track which 5 students were assigned to him.  As a conciliatory gesture, I did offer to contact the “class of 2010” (freshman in 2006) and ask them to reflect upon Mr. Jones or the use of their respective assigned cadavers.  She agreed and I fired off an email designed to reach a group of doctors not only nine years removed from anatomy, but now practicing medicine all over the country. I had little hope of a response.

The first reply arrived within 10 minutes from Dr. Susan Anzalone.

Dear Mrs. Jones,

I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your husband.  I hope you are doing OK and are surrounded by loving family and friends.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.