Some Are Up In Arms Over Bodies Being Used For Crash Experiments

May 1st, 2014
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Cars have never been safer.  That fact is largely due to the use of crash tests and destructive experiments conducted on car designs.   Similar tests have improved the safety of everything from airline seats to passenger rail cars.

To do these tests, sophisticated crash test dummies have been developed.  These dummies have improved vastly over the years.  They are reusable, packed with sensors and designed to accurately mimic the human body’s response to crashes.

However, to make these dummies and to validate their response, there must be something to compare them to.  Ideally, that would be real, living, breathing, healthy, humans.  Unfortunately, ethics boards tend to have a problem with using humans for anything other than the most benign of crash tests.  Living human volunteers are still used for some things, like range of motion measurements or determining things like tissue density.  When it comes to actual crash tests, however, it’s dead humans, cadavers, that are used to conduct the tests.

The overwhelming majority of crash tests don’t use cadavers, but they remain an important part of research.  The bodies are treated with respect and are generally wrapped in materials that cover parts like the face and hands.  But, in the end, they are hurled against things and beaten to a pulp before being x-rayed or autopsied to determine the injuries sustained.

This really bothers some people a lot…


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Most of the bodies used are from those who never granted specific permission to use their remains in crash tests, but did donate their bodies to science.  There is no requirement that those who agreed to have their bodies used for scientific purposes are given more details about what kind of research that might be.  In fact, it’s often not until after they die that it is determined how the body will be used.

I find the distaste for this to be misplaced.  If one donates their body to science, it is to be expected that things will happen to it that might not be pretty.  If it doesn’t get hurled against a wall, it will be chopped up in pathology studies or anatomy classes or it might be left out to rot in decay studies.  No, it’s not pleasant to think of, especially with loved ones, but it’s not much worse than the alternative.  If not donated to science, the body will either be put into the ground to rot or burned.   Neither of these are really something many of us want to look forward to.  But that’s death, which is something I am trying to put off for as long as reasonably possible.

If nothing else, this use of cadavers could be considered the most important, at least in so far as its impact on the living.  Few other experiments represent a more direct means of saving human lives.

Personally, I do not find it deceptive to not tell donors or their families about the possibilities of crash tests.  The best way of dealing with a grieving family, in my opinion, is to provide some basic information.  For example, one could say “Your relative has decided to donate their body to science.  Their remains will be used in a manner that will advance scientific and medical knowledge.   There are a number of ways this might happen.  We could give you the details about the kind of experiments carried out, but to be honest, you would probably wouldn’t want to hear all the details.”

It’s no different than most funeral arrangements.  Families may know their loved one will be embalmed and prepared for display and burial.  However, they aren’t normally given the full details about how the deceased will have their blood drained, their eyes glued shut and cotton balls stuffed up their anus.  That’s just not a picture most would want to have.

 

 


This entry was posted on Thursday, May 1st, 2014 at 11:50 am and is filed under Bad Science, Culture, Good Science, Misc. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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10 Responses to “Some Are Up In Arms Over Bodies Being Used For Crash Experiments”

  1. 1
    DV82XL Says:

    This is typical of pure s**t disturbing sensationalism for its own sake in complete disregard for what the consequences might be. There is no good reason at all that this practice needs to be ‘exposed’ in particular as no one that was concerned with the fate of their remains would have become a donor in the first place. Furthermore in was their body to dispose of in the first place, so the family need not be consulted at all on its use.


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  2. 2
    L.Long Says:

    Have any of these dimwits see what happens in an autopsy?
    This is the same BS non sense that put medical treatments back 100 yrs because to open up or use a dead body to see what is going on was an abomination onto GAWD!!!! This is probably the first time the bodies have been put to good use!! So you may now know I am an Ahole so face it, 200lbs of dead meat is NOT Tom-Dick-or Mary.
    If the religious nut jobs in the USA would allow such things, they can use my body – With or without my permission, I’m VERY DEAD and very not here anymore and very much don’t give a damn.
    Am I being insensitive to my wife? or kids? Well I told them when I die my insurance will pay of $XXX, what ever you waste on a funeral is money you don’t have to live on, 235lbs of dead meat is does NOT represent me, I live on in my work, in the people I taught, and the children I help though life’s bumps. If my body can help make things better for others then go for it!


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  3. 3
    drbuzz0 Says:

            DV82XL said:

    Furthermore in was their body to dispose of in the first place, so the family need not be consulted at all on its use.

    I am not really sure what the law is, but my understanding is that the next of kin does have some say in what happens even when there is a prior agreement.

    IE: if your family member wanted to donate their body to science and signed forms to, but you were strongly against it, there might be things you could do to try to stop it.

    In fact, my guess would be that it would not be too hard to stop it. If you tried to stop it from happening, the medical institution would likely just grant your wish to not have it used for science, rather than have an ugly legal battle with the family on their hands.

    Something like:

    “My father would absolutely not authorize this and if he signed something to that then he was doing so because he was incapacitated by his disease. I will hire a lawyer and sue your medical school until you release his body and I am going to the media and I will not stop fighting until you stop this…”

    “Look, alright fine. The last thing we’re looking to do is have people go off the wall and hurt the reputation of our program. You can have your father’s body”


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  4. 4
    Jack Knows Jack Says:

    Similar problem happened at some facilities where human decay studies were done. They took donated bodies and left them uncovered outside to decay or put them in different situations (shallow grave, covered with a tarp or whatever). The purpose being to scientifically document how the human body decays and determine things like how it might impact DNA being collected and degrading and things like the stages where maggots are attracted.

    There is some good reason for this, being basically crime and forensic stuff and possibly other things, like if a body is found in an apartment it would give some idea how long it had been there if we have been documenting how fast they decay.

    Of course, it’s nasty, stinky and ugly.

    Some news item a while ago was to the affect that people who had their loved ones remains donated to the university that had this were in horror when they learned that this might have been their fate.


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  5. 5
    DV82XL Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    I am not really sure what the law is, but my understanding is that the next of kin does have some say in what happens even when there is a prior agreement.

    Apparently it depends on State/Provincial law which varies between them. In some, prior arrangements take precedence, in others they can be overridden by the living. Here we are a Civil Code jurisdiction and if they have been notarized these agreements cannot be broken by the family.


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  6. 6
    Johnny G Says:

    DV82XL: Sure, but isn’t it enough of a problem without even considering the legal part? A family might not have the right to take a body back, but they sure could raise a lot of hell over it. If someone is making enough of a scene about their father or mother not being treated respectfully, think about how much that could hurt the reputation of a medical institute or hurt their grants or something. I agree that in the worst situation, they might just cave and let the body go, less they cause such bad publicity.

    All of this is unnecessary. It is legit scientific research nd important.


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  7. 7
    DV82XL Says:

            Johnny G said:

    DV82XL: Sure, but isn’t it enough of a problem without even considering the legal part?

    I suspect that the number of folks that would try and countermand someone’s last wishes would be small to begin with as one would think this would have been discussed beforehand and those with religious issues about the disposal of one’s earthly remains are not likely to sign those away for a start.

    My issue with this is that to make a story, this has been blown out of proportion, and the net effect may be to reduce the number of cadavers offered up for research rather than cause any but a very few to try and take action after the fact.


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  8. 8
    drbuzz0 Says:

            DV82XL said:

    My issue with this is that to make a story, this has been blown out of proportion, and the net effect may be to reduce the number of cadavers offered up for research rather than cause any but a very few to try and take action after the fact.

    It should be noted that the number of cadavers available is always an issue. We’re not swimming in dead bodies (Okay, that’s a good thing, I suppose)

    For something like crash tests, the pool is smaller still. You have to have bodies that are in a certain condition. If you use the elderly for crash test studies you will run into problems with bodies having osteoporosis or something like that, which, of course, is going to skew the experimental results.


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  9. 9
    AndyH Says:

    This reminds me of all the blown up controversy about fetuses being burned in furnaces which are also used for heating. As if it makes any difference whether the furnace is hooked up to a heating system or not.


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  10. 10
    Billy Says:

    I fully intend to donate my body to science and I’d be happy to have it torn apart in a crash test, I won’t need it anymore and it will likely save lives or at least contribute to lives being saved.


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