Dying to Go to Tulane?

Each year, Tulane receives many more donated bodies than it can actually use for purposes of medical education.  While there are several theories why Tulane accepts a three-fold excess of bodies, the oversupply creates a situation it has sought to resolve through the use of third party cadaver brokers [1].  Recently, Tulane claimed it received about 105 excess cadavers it had to dispose of [2].

One of Tulane's cadaver brokers, National Anatomical Service, reported that it provides bodies to the Army for military experimentation and that it recently received about $30,000 for six or seven cadavers.  At that rate, 105 cadavers would have a potential earnings yield of about $450,000 for the broker.  According to one source, Tulane was reimbursed about $1,000 for each cadaver [1].

Legally, Tulane cannot profit from the sale of bodies, but it is entitled to recover the reasonable cost of transactions with a broker.  Clearly, funds are needed to help pay the salaries of personnel involved in receiving, storing and transporting the bodies, for administrating the donor program, for defraying the "rental" and maintenance costs of the physical storage space, and for refrigeration equipment, its upkeep, and the electricity used to run it.

Although Tulane does not technically profit from the sale of bodies entrusted to it by individuals who thought they were donating them for educational and scientific purposes, it benefits from the sale of those bodies.  The incident has triggered lawsuits against Tulane [3, 4].

Tulane's questionable business ethics is consistent with other noteworthy activities that are self-serving at the expense of New Orleans and its citizens.  Recent examples include the support of gambling interests in Biloxi, the increase in sports revenue linked to the loss of Sugar Bowl traffic to New Orleans, and its attempts to erect a hotel and conference center in the heart of a residential neighborhood that deeply opposes the measure.


  1. Stewart Yerton, "Donated bodies blown up by Army; Tulane suspends deal with cadaver broker," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, March 10, 2004, p. A-1.

  2. Stewart Yerton, "Donors' families grieve all over again; Use of bodies by Army prompts sadness, anger," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, March 12, 2004, p. A-1.

  3. Stewart Yerton, "Relatives sue Tulane over use of cadaver; They say it profited on gift, misled them," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, April 1, 2004, p. B-1.

  4. Joan Treadway, "Tulane sued again over use of a body; Donated remains sold to Staten Island firm," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, May 22, 2004, p. B-3.

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