Gabriele Carroll was uncomfortable when her father first suggested that he and his wife donate their bodies to science after their deaths. But today, she feels much differently.
Wright State University hosted a “beautiful ceremony” for her parents and gave them a “peaceful” resting place on campus, Carroll said. And now she finds hope that the medical students will be able to use her parents’ illnesses to one day find a cure.
That kind of positive testimonial could be behind the rapid rise in Dayton area residents wishing to donate their bodies to Wright State’s Boonshoft School of Medicine — so many that the program has had to close to new registrants for the time being.
Enrollment has nearly tripled in the last decade to about 11,000 people, said Dan Miska, director of the anatomical gift program. That is more than Ohio State University College of Medicine’s 4,100 registered donors and nearly as many as the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine’s 12,000. Both OSU and UC are still taking new donors, according to the schools, and both programs have experienced increases in people enrolling. There are seven anatomical gift programs in Ohio that are affiliated with university medical school programs.
Miska said he does not know why Wright State has seen such a sharp increase in registrants. But future donors say they want to make a difference and ease the burden — including the financial costs of a funeral — on their families after their deaths.
“It’s kind of courageous when you’re still living to make a decision like that,” said Carroll, who left flowers at the Rockafield Cemetery on Thursday, the anniversary of losing her mother, Gertrud Gill, to Parkinson’s disease in 2006. Her father, Walter Gill, passed away in 1993 from cancer, which attached to his spleen.
“It’s never a very easy time when you lose somebody,” the Fairborn resident said. “But it kind of helps that they’re doing something.”
Miska said the donation program is “hugely important.” It has been in place since 1975 and totalled 20,000 registered donors, he said.
“It’s extremely important to the school of medicine and to the local medical community,” he said.
During the annual memorial program, Miska tells families: “If a student were to see only one anatomical donor during his or her training, that single donor could have an impact on over 175,000 patient interactions by the end of their career.
“It is an amazing gift.”
Peter Wine said he decided to donate his body to Wright State after suffering a health scare in 2008. His father, Joe, was a donor after succumbing to cancer in 1990.
“He was always a very giving, very community-oriented person,” Peter Wine said of his father. “And I can’t imagine anything more helpful to the community than being able to be somehow a link between a problem and a solution from a medical standpoint. And that’s basically what you’re doing. You can be part of a process that allows them to find either the new best doctor in the world or the solution to a medical issue. “
Lois Anderson said many of her family members have been donors. She and her husband registered about 20 years ago, and she said she would have been disappointed if the program was full at that time.
“Part of that is having a useful purpose for our physical body once we’re through with it,” she said. “If it can serve some purpose, we thought that’s a good thing to do.”
Peggy Gamble said she decided to become a future donor shortly after her divorce. “My two sons would be responsible for my funeral, burial and all involved with my death. The boys having that responsibility bothered me. I did not want them emotionally or financially burdened because of me,” she said.
Becoming a donor eased that worry, but “more importantly I was giving a gift to future generations,” she said.
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