• Germany's news in English

Soaring funeral costs mean more Germans leave bodies to science

AFP · 6 Sep 2008, 09:37

Published: 06 Sep 2008 09:37 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Inflation in the funeral business in Germany has led a record number of people to leave their bodies to science, to the point where researchers are now turning away cadavers or even charging donors.

“If you look at the 33 anatomy institutes in Germany taken together, the supply of bodies donated to science has been higher than the demand for a few years now,” Friedrich Paulsen, a professor at the Institute for Anatomy at Martin Luther University in the eastern city of Halle, told AFP.

“Axel Burchardt, spokesman for the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, eastern Germany has no illusions about what has led to the wave of generosity among grieving families: research institutes generally assume the cost of a funeral once the dearly departed have been dissected.

“It is probably no accident that we have registered a boom in cadaver donations,” he said. Burchardt noted that when only a heart or a kidney is taken from a person who has recently died, the cost of the funeral falls to the family.

Rising taxes on cemeteries mean that burial ceremonies now average upwards of €3,000, according to Heike Boehme-Kueppenbender of the Federation of German Undertakers. ”For luxury funerals, the sky's the limit,” she said.

Since 2004, public health insurance funds have also axed the €1,000 stipend for funerals. Some families have had to seek public assistance to pay for their loved ones’ burial, while others have sought plots in the Netherlands, Belgium, France or Switzerland where the cost of interment is lower, Boehme-Kueppenbender said.

Against this backdrop, Andreas Winkelmann, a professor at Berlin's Charite teaching hospital, said it is always less expensive to donate a body for research, although he said it was almost never the sole reason for giving away a corpse.

In Frankfurt in the west, the number of donated cadavers has been rising for three to five years, said Christof Schomerus, of the anatomy department staff at the Goethe University.

”We have 30 or 35 cadavers every year but we only need 20 or 25 for the students,” he said. “With a dozen left over, we do continuing education for doctors.”

He said he welcomed the surplus compared to a dearth a decade ago.

“We no longer have to put ads in the papers,” Schomerus said.

He said the downside was rising costs for anatomy colleges because German law stipulates that every body, dissected or not, must receive a burial or cremation.

Institutes once received state funeral allowances for each corpse bequeathed but the funds were eliminated in 2004.

In addition come the costs of transport and preservation, which has led about a quarter of institutes in Germany to levy a fee on bodies donated of between €450 and €1,250, Paulsen in Halle said.

In Munich, volunteers are asked for their “understanding” about the €1,150 fee but there was room to negotiate “in case of urgent need”.

The anatomy institute there admitted that some volunteers had backed out of their offer to donate their corpses upon their death as a result of the charge but said it was nevertheless overwhelmed with donations and forced to cap them.

Story continues below…

In the northern city of Hannover, only local residents may apply. In other cities including Leipzig, Frankfurt or Halle, volunteers must live within 100 kilometres of the institute.

“We do not want to see the development of cadaver tourism," Schomerus explained dryly.

Sabine Loeffler at the University of Leipzig admitted the new rules were a bit harsh.

“It may be a little macabre but we do not have a choice,” she said.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Munich to get 'nice toilets' to serve cross-legged locals
Photo: DPA

The Bavarian capital has a pee problem - the city only has one public toilet for every 13,000 inhabitants. But a new plan could rescue desperate locals, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports.

German kids get glowing report for their English skills
Photo: DPA.

As if multilingual Germans don't already put many English-speakers to shame, now the younger generation is improving their English skills even more.

Berlin museum controversially recreates Hitler bunker
The reconstruction of the Hitler bunker. Photo: DPA

Sensationalized or compelling history? Berlin museums clash over new Nazi bunker exhibit

Germans think they're fit, but they're really couch potatoes
Photo: DPA.

There's been an increase in the number of Germans who define themselves as "fit", but their lifestyle choices don't quite match this self-perception.

10 fascinating facts you never knew about German beer
Tennis coach Boris Becker and his wife Lilly at Oktoberfest 2016 in Munich. Photo: DPA

From malt and monks to Radlers and rivalries, the story of German beer is as rich and wonderful as its selection.

Intensive farming 'endangers a third of German species'
Photo: DPA

There are 32,000 species of animal, plant and mushroom life native to Germany. Due to intensive farming methods, one in every three of these is endangered, a new report shows.

German hospital uses therapy to 'treat' paedophiles
A poster from the campaigne "Don't offend", which offers therapy to paedophiles. The sign reads "Do you love kids more than you'd prefer? There's help." Photo: DB Scholz & Friends / DPA.

A unique German initiative is offering therapy to paedophiles to control their urges, with the aim of getting them help before they offend.

Minister: 'no tolerance' for clowns after chainsaw attack
Photo: DPA

Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière has called for a zero-tolerance approach to 'killer clowns' after a series of attacks culminating in two teenagers being chased by a clown wielding a chainsaw.

Baby who was auctioned on eBay taken away from father
Photo: DPA.

A German court ruled on Thursday that a man who put his one-month-old baby up for sale on the online auction platform eBay should only be allowed contact with the child under supervision.

Portugal's ruling party calls German minister 'pyromaniac'
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble. Photo: DPA.

The head of Portugal's ruling Socialists called German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble a "pyromaniac" on Thursday after he criticized Lisbon for reversing course on austerity.

10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd