Medical schools in New York will no longer accept unclaimed bodies from the city. The move, which comes on the heels of legislation that would ban the longtime practice, was overwhelmingly approved in June and is expected to be signed into law this coming week.
The announcement was made by the Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY), in partnership with all eight medical colleges based in New York City. The groups also said that they would be withdrawing their call for Governor Andrew Cuomo to veto the legislation.
Bob Farley, legislative advisor to Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) who is the bill’s co-sponsor, welcomed the move.
“We’re thrilled about the announcement. Even though it’s something they would probably have to do very soon anyway,” he told Hamodia. “They realize that there is a better way of doing this without violating the feelings of families, and deserve to be praised for that.”
Historically, bodies left unclaimed at the New York City Medical Examiner’s office were made available to the American Academy McAllister Institute of Funeral Service (AAMI) in Manhattan for training purposes. A smaller number were also given to medical schools.
When Mayor de Blasio decided to suspend the practice, AAMI sued, claiming that the move impeded their operation. The case was settled in spring of 2015 and the city resumed its previous practice.
Around the same time, a case brought by a Staten Island family challenged the State Medical Examiner’s right to keep organs without the consent of the next of kin. The court ruled against the plaintiffs.
The legislation had been introduced by Sen. Felder (D-Brooklyn-D) and Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Queens) prior to the legal battles, saying they felt the present law violated the rights of families of the deceased.
In recent years, medical schools have increased programs that encourage voluntary body donations for the training of physicians and research purposes. The two city-based schools without such programs, CUNY College of Medicine and Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, have now announced they will begin similar initiatives.
McAllister Institute remained firm in its opposition to the bill, claiming that it will create shortages of funeral directors and related professions in New York.
Mr. Farley was dismissive of the school’s claims.
“They should not be forcing the city to continue a bad policy, it’s simply unseemly to be practicing on human bodies without the family’s consent,” he said.
“It might cost them more, but they will be able to get the bodies they need. This bill just provides respect for people’s religious or personal beliefs, which is something that our society should value.”