In recent years, the donations of bodies to medical universities in Japan has dramatically increased. Some say this is due to a change in attitudes toward death in the country, while others contend it is due to the number of older people without families to take care of their remains after death.
In 1985, about 68,000 people offered to donate their bodies to medical universities after death, compared with 296,000 as of March 31, 2018, according to Tokushi Kaibo Zenkoku Rengokai, an association set up to encourage this practice, which is known as kentai in Japanese.
One of the reasons why few people offered to donate their bodies in the past was the taboo of Japan's Buddhist heritage against damaging bodies after death. According to Kentai Association executive director and Kyorin University anatomy professor, George Matsumura, attitudes toward death are changing. One reason he gives is Japan's numerous natural disasters. He said that witnessing the deaths of family and friends in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami made people more conscious of wanting to decide the endings to their lives.
Signing up to donate one's body is simple. The person registers to donate with a university and receives a body donation card. After death, family members or someone close to the deceased must contact the university to claim the body. After the body is used in dissection classes, the body is cremated. Medical school professors stress the importance of the hand-on approach to teaching anatomy to students. About 15 universities in Japan, including Hokkaido University and Kumamoto University have stopped accepting offers of bodies due to lack of capacity for storage. About 4,000 bodies are dissected annually at 98 universities in Japan.
What do you think the situation is where you live? Are people reluctant to donate their bodies or are there too many donations? I'm curious about how this works in other countries.