University takes years to bury bodies donated for science

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The University of Kentucky will revamp the way it handles bodies donated for science after an audit found that the burial of remains was delayed by years.


The college conducted the audit after the Lexington Herald-Leader published a story earlier this year about the burial backlog. On Tuesday, the paper reported the audit found that, after the bodies are used for research and medical training, the time between cremation and burial should be six months. The school averages more than three years.

"I want to apologize on behalf of the entire UK community for the failings we uncovered in this important program," Eli Capilouto, the university's president, said in a statement. "The body bequeathal program has long been important to our teaching mission. It also has been important to so many individuals and their families who made selfless donations, born of compassion and fueled by a sense of service to others. We apologize to them and want them to know that we are moving quickly to fix what was broken and restore their trust in us."

According to the Herald-Leader, the program director arranged for the burial of 91 sets of remains in December at the university's section of the Lexington Cemetery. Prior to that, though, the most recent burial was in 2009.

While Capilouto said the audit did not uncover problems with the cadavers or any financial impropriety, it did reveal issues of oversight and quality control, and revealed that the crematorium was not routinely maintained.

The school said it will use a third-party administrator to handle the program and approved new software to help with record-keeping. The program had been handled by the anatomy department.

The school said in its statement that 235 cremated bodies remain at the university and are still in need of burial. Officials are contacting those families.


The Herald-Leader reported Tuesday that the program, previously funded by burial and student fees, will now be covered by the university.

"We are a learning institution," Eric Monday, the school's executive vice president for finance and administration said in the school's statement. "That means when problems are found, we acknowledge them and work, collaboratively, to fix them."


"As far as I'm concerned, that's great news," Russ Zirkle, who contacted the school last year because his brothers remains had not been buried, told the Herald-Leader. "Those are people's loved ones they're taking care of."

Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.