FRANCE: University illegally charges for body donations

A French woman who decided to leave her body to medical research was astounded when told by a Paris university that she would have to pay for the privilege.

Marie Besson contacted the two Paris faculties of medicine which deal with donated corpses in the Paris region, the School of Surgery at the Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP) and the Institute of Anatomy of the University of Paris-5 René-Descartes.

“When you die, there’s no point in throwing your body away; it’s better to use it for medical purposes,” Besson told the newspaper Le Parisien.

Besson, who is long-term unemployed, received a letter from the director of the donation centre at Paris-5 University, Guy Vallancien, who thanked her for her valuable and generous initiative but asked her to pay €250 (US$350) for her future cremation costs.

“I wanted to carry out my citizen’s duty and they ask me to pay for it -- €250 is my monthly unemployment pay and this doesn’t include a [funeral] service or anything,” said Besson. “If the donation centres charge €250, it’s not surprising there’s a lack of bodies for the [medical] faculties.”

Under the law, an establishment which accepts such a bequest must “take charge of the costs of burial or cremation of the body”. But University Descartes told the Parisien that, despite the law: “We do not have financial support, so we are unable to take responsibility for the costs.”

Vallancien said: “The donation of bodies means donors do not have to pay the costs of a funeral, which are often high.”

Besson is still considering whether to go ahead and leave her body to the AP-HP – which will take it without charge.

Full report on the Le Parisien site