Skeletons in the closet — and other places

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From an article in yesterday’s Guardian:

The University of Cologne is investigating after hundreds of human body parts were found in the cellars of its institute of anatomy, apparently abandoned there for years.

[U]niversity staff discovered a room full of human adult corpses and animal cadavers, as well as a large number of plastic buckets, labelled “noses”, “newborns” and “shark head”. Evidence gathered by hygiene experts and fire safety officers accompanying the staff indicated that the room might have been left unused for a decade or more.

About 100 corpses of people who had donated their bodies to medical research, but who should by then have long been buried, were among the macabre discoveries. The institute has been trying to identify them using a highly muddled donor archive.

One of the staff, a man who wished to remain anonymous, said that at the time of the visit “the cooling system was broken, and the room smelt accordingly bad”. He described the scene as “quite disgusting” and “reminiscent of a horror film”.

The body of Professor Jürgen Koebke, 66, the institute’s former head, was found under a bridge in Cologne last month days after rumours began to circulate; police suspect he stabbed himself to death.

The scandal has brought into focus the practice of donating corpses to anatomical institutes for medical purposes. While long popular in Germany, the trend has greatly increased over the past decade since the government scrapped state support for funeral costs leaving people looking for ways to save money.

Institutes have had to find ways of ensuring they do not take more corpses than they need for the purposes of training medical students, as supply has greatly exceeded demand.

Read the whole article here.


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