In Light Of Possible Abuse At Body Donation Centers, Experts Offer Advice
Posted on Saturday, January 24th, 2015 at 9:38 am by lifemediamatters
In light of a multi-state investigation into cadavers being sold for medical research, experts are warning patients and families hoping to donate remains to carefully consider their options.
The FBI raided a suburban Chicago crematory and an affiliated company that arranges donations of human remains after search warrants were filed in Michigan, The Associated Press reports. The raids at Cremation Services, Inc. in Schiller Park, IL and the Biological Resource Center in Rosemont, IL could be connected to a multi-state investigation into companies collecting and distributing bodies donated for scientific research.
According to a statement from the Biological Resource Center of Illinois, search warrants were executed at the facility as part of “an ongoing investigation of two former business associates.”
The Biological Resource Center acts as a “bridge” between individuals who donate their body and the research community. Patients or families may choose to gift remains for altruistic and philosophical reasons, or to help save on funeral costs.
In 2013, federal agents raided International Biological in Detroit, Michigan. Television station WXYX reported that agents “removed body parts of 1,000 different people in December that were cut up; arms, legs and heads that were not embalmed, but kept on ice for the market.”
In 2014, FBI agents executed a search warrant at another center in Arizona. The CDC investigated reports of “potential occupational exposure” to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus and Mycobacterium tuberculosis among workers who performed preparation and dissection procedures on anatomical materials.
Paul J. Dudek, executive vice president of the Anatomical Gift Association of Illinois, recommends that patients wishing to donate contact medical centers or universities directly.
“The vast majority of full-body donations are for medical schools; there are probably 140 university-based schools with programs around the country. The easiest thing to do is call the one closest to you and ask how it works,” he said. “There are other not-for-profit organizations that do a very good job. There is tremendous demand for human specimens.”
The AGA manages the willed body donor program for medical and educational institutions throughout the state. It is not affiliated with any of the investigated companies.
Dudek said he hopes people will not be discouraged from donating their organs or body to science, because “physicians are always trying to learn new techniques and new instruments.”
Dr. Ben Margolis, director of the Autopsy Center of Chicago, called the developments “disturbing” and recommends families contact the Anatomical Gift Association before donating. It is illegal to sell any organ or body in the U.S.
“There is also a larger issue of comfort with death discussions in general. If decisions are only made around the time of death, a stressful time, families have less time to explore organ or full-body donation,” he said. “Become comfortable with the process before you have to make decisions.”
Full-body or brain donations are vital to helping scientists learn about progressive diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, he added.
Daniel McCarthy, founder of Elements, the cremation company in Illinois, recommends “every family do their own due diligence” before donating. It may be beneficial for families to speak with funeral directors, attorneys and religious leaders.
“It’s imperative that the family or whomever it is making the choice for the decedent contact the company themselves,” McCarthy said. “It’s imperative they ask the right questions: What happens? Why is it free? Who or where does the body go? Are there any caveats to how the body is used?”
Occupational Stress: Doctors Suffer When Unable To Save Lives
Posted on Thursday, November 29th, 2012 at 1:03 pm by Life Matters Media
Physicians who treat the terminally ill may suffer from emotional stress when unable to save patients’ lives. Burnout and compassion fatigue are two serious forms of occupational stress physicians may suffer, according to research by Michael Kearney, M.D.
Kearney, a palliative care physician at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in California, describes burnout as “the end stage of stresses between the individual and the work environment.” Compassion fatigue is “secondary post-traumatic stress disorder, or vicarious traumatization — trauma suffered when someone close to you is suffering.”
Health care journalist Jane Brody addresses the stress and anxiety oncologists struggle with in a new article for The New York Times. Brody writes, “A doctor with compassion fatigue may avoid thoughts and feelings associated with a patient’s misery, become irritable and easily angered, and face physical and emotional distress when reminded of work with the dying.” Compassion fatigue may lead to burnout.
Up to 60 percent of practicing physicians report symptoms of burnout.
According to Brody: “Patients and families may not realize it, but doctors who care for people with incurable illness, and especially the terminally ill, often suffer with their patients. Unable to cope with their own feelings of frustration, failure and helplessness, doctors may react with anger, abruptness and avoidance.”
Physician suicide linked to occupational stress
According to Crystal Phend, senior staff writer for MedPage Today, “Suicide among physicians appears to follow a different profile than in the general population, with a greater role played by job stress and mental health problems.”
Phend cites a study by Katherine J. Gold, M.D., of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who found that problems with work were three times more likely to have contributed to a physician’s suicide than a nonphysician’s. Mental illness was also 34 percent more common before a suicide among physicians.
Up to 60 percent of practicing physicians report symptoms of burnout
“The results of this study paint a picture of the typical physician suicide victim that is substantially different from that of the nonphysician suicide victim in several important ways,” Gold wrote for General Hospital Psychiatry. “Inadequate treatment and increased problems related to job stress may be potentially modifiable risk factors to reduce suicidal death among physicians.”
Although physicians have more access to health care, they may be reluctant to seek help. “I think stigma about mental health is a huge part of the story. There is a belief that physicians should be able to avoid depression or just ‘get over it’ by themselves,” Gold wrote.
More than 200 of the 31,636 suicide victims reported in the National Violent Death Reporting System from 2003 to 2008 were physicians.
Meditation may help physicians
A 2008 study published by the Journal of Palliative Medicine, in which researchers studied 18 oncologists, found that physicians who viewed their work with patients as both biomedical and psychosocial found end of life more satisfying than those with a more biomedical perspective.
“Physicians, who viewed their physician role as encompassing both biomedical and psychosocial aspects of care, reported a clear method of communication about end of life care, and an ability to positively influence patient and family coping with and acceptance of the dying process,” the researchers concluded.
“In contrast, participants who described primarily a biomedical role reported a more distant relationship with the patient, a sense of failure at not being able to alter the course of the disease, and an absence of collegial support.”
Kearney recommends “mindfulness meditation,” a Buddhist-influenced practice for physicians suffering from stress. “The doctor is able to recognize he’s being stressed, and it prevents him from invoking the survival defense mechanisms of fight (‘Let’s do another course of chemotherapy’), flight (‘There’s nothing more I can do for you — I’ll go get the chaplain’) and freeze (the doctor goes blank and does nothing).” He claims that even 8-10 minutes a day of “mindfulness meditation” can help.
Mich. Couples To Lose Health Coverage
Posted on Friday, August 10th, 2012 at 9:45 pm by Life Matters Media
A Michigan law prohibits some public employers from offering healthcare to same-sex couples come Dec. 31. The Detroit Free Press reports that “more than 60 people packed into Judge David Lawson’s courtroom for arguments in a lawsuit filed on behalf of schoolteachers, city and county workers…who will lose their health insurance as a result of a new law prohibiting certain public employers from offering health care benefits to unmarried couples, including same-sex couples.” According to the report, District Judge Lawson may strike down the law.
The Ann Arbor reports that two Ann Arbor couples are named in an ACLU lawsuit filed against Gov. Richard Snyder. One couple, Theresa Bassett and Carol Kennedy have a particular interest in the case. “Bassett teaches sixth and eighth grade math in Ann Arbor schools, which provides health insurance coverage to Kennedy, who is self-employed as a daycare provider. Because of Carol’s family history of breast cancer, individual comprehensive insurance coverage will be extremely expensive, the ACLU said,” according to the report.
The law was signed by Gov. Richard Snyder in December. The law is available at Michigan Legislative Website.
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