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Rise in body donations to Keele University medical team
Anatomy room at Keele University
Keele University has seen a four fold rise in the number of body donations

The Medical school at Keele University has reported a big rise in the number of people wanting to donate their bodies for research after they die.

The bodies are used to teach students who are training to become surgeons and doctors in the future.

Lecturers there say they've had four times the number of calls since an item on BBC1's The One Show in May 2010.

Director of anatomy, Mike Mahon said: "We normally get 20 enquiries a month, but since May that's up to around 70."

It's meant more work for Keele's bequeathals officer, Felicity Dunn, who says Tessa Dunlop's film about her father's death which appeared on the BBC's One Show has raised interest.

She said: "People from all backgrounds have come forward to donate their bodies for research."

"The main reason they all do it is to give something back, whether they've had medical treatment themselves, or a member of their family has," she added.

Muscles and organs

On average a person's body will be kept at the University for a year.

It's not only examined by students from the medical school but also those that are studying physiotherapy, biology and forensic science.

"From a 3D perspective students are able to understand how muscles and organs fit together, how they work with each other and how things move about inside the body," said lecturer Hayley Derricot.

Students also use computer simulations and models to learn more about anatomy, but third year student, Thomas Kwan, who's training to be a surgeon, said the more hands-on experience of dealing with the bodies is key to his training.

"Models and computer programmes are excellent and they do provide us with very detailed understanding, but I almost liken it to a map," he said.

"You can study the map of a town for as long as you like, but until you actually set foot in that town and walk round, you won't truly get to know it."

"Models are great, but patients aren't going to be labelled like a model or painted in nice primary colours when you come to operate on them," he added.

Treat as a patient

The students are urged to think of the body donor as their first patient and to make a bond with them.

Thomas said: "While you spend the year working with the body, you are looking into this person's life, how they lived it and things they went through. By the end of the year it has become a very personal relationship."

After the year of examination, the bodies are then given back to the family for burial or cremation, and a special memorial service is held at the University.

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