Cadaver Shortage Leads Turkey to Import Dead Bodies from U.S.

Medical students work on a body in the dissection hall of the medical department of the University of Greifswald in Greifswald, Germany, 05 July 2016. Body donors are considered an indispensable contribution to teaching and training by helping prospective dentistry and medical students as well as human biologist acquire basic …
Stefan Sauer/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Just in time for Halloween, some good news on the export front comes from Turkey’s Hurriyetwhich reports the high demand for cadavers at Turkish medical schools has obliged them to purchase American bodies at 120k lira (about $40,000) a pop.

Uludağ University in the northwestern Turkish province of Bursa has been importing dead bodies from the U.S. for over 120,000 Turkish Liras each, as its Faculty of Medicine is eager to prevent its students from graduating without working on an actual human body.

Speaking at an event marking “Anatomy Week,” the faculty’s Department of Anatomy stressed the urgent need of donations of dead bodies.

“Because cadavers cannot be found in Turkey, we are importing them from the U.S. Each one costs 120,000 liras,” said Prof. Erdoğan Şendemir from the department.

Actually, Sendemir explained the problem was not so much a shortage of dead bodies in Turkey as a bureaucratic logjam, caused by “prosecutors and municipalities” reluctant to notify the school when corpses become available.

To correct this deficiency, another speaker at the “Anatomy Week” event, Professor Ihsaniye Coskun, spoke of working to “increase the sensitivity of the public regarding the donating of human bodies after death for use by medical researchers.”

A previous report from Daily Sabah in April said Turkey was dealing with its cadaver shortage by purchasing corpses from China, quoting a substantially lower price-per-body of $15,000. Turkish assistance with Chinese efforts to develop “robotic surgery simulation centers” was said to be part of the deal as well. This report mentioned a different medical school, Hacettepe University in Ankara.

The Daily Sabah article mentioned the same problem as Hurriyet’s more recent piece, a lack of donations combined with increased demand from medical schools. Also, Turkish medical schools complained that “judiciary officials often order the burial of unclaimed bodies, a main source for cadavers, instead of handing them to the schools.”