Cook County president 'surprised' by cadaver donation policy

October 4, 2011

(Flickr/John Biehler)
Cook County commissioners approved an agreement last September to give unclaimed bodies to the Anatomical Gifts Association.

Cook County has outlined how it will donate unclaimed cadavers to science. But the county board president says she's surprised by recently revealed details.

The Cook County Medical Examiner will donate the remains after two weeks in cases where bodies are unclaimed or families can't afford burial. Medical Examiner Nancy Jones outlined the policy in an internal memo last week, first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times.

After Tuesday's County Board meeting, County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said the policy surprised her.

"I can understand that ... people would be concerned about the short time frame" for claiming bodies, Preckwinkle said.

County commissioners approved an agreement last September to give unclaimed bodies over to the Anatomical Gifts Association which, in turn, distributes the cadavers to medical schools and researchers. But the agreement does not lay out a process for handing the bodies over.

Despite the short time frame outlined by the county, the group said it holds new cadavers for 60 days before distributing them. And families can still claim the remains during that period.

Preckwinkle says she will "look into" the policy before the next board meeting, and possibly meet with the medical examiner.