A PLEA for body donations has been issued as Irish medical schools strive to avoid a UK-style shortage of cadavers.
The appeal came as one of Ireland's oldest medical teaching schools -- University College Cork (UCC) -- is to stage a ceremony in memory of the estimated 3,000-plus people who have donated their bodies over the past 150 years.
Medical schools in Dublin, Cork and Galway rely on the donation of bodies for the practical teaching of medical, dental and science students.
The importance of such donations has been underlined by fears that Ireland could experience a shortfall similar to that which has hit medical schools in the UK over the past 15 years.
Former British chief medical officer Liam Donaldson has said the drop in body donations from more than 700 to 600 in just five years is affecting the teaching of medical students and that around 1,000 donations a year are needed.
Trinity College Dublin has around 1,000 people on its donation waiting list. UCC gets about 20 body donations a year.
UCC's Professor John Cryan told the Irish Independent that such selfless donations meant that more than 600 students each year could be taught in a practical way about medical, dental and life-science skills.
"We are very grateful to those who are generous enough to donate their bodies for medical science and education. Such bequests are essential to our proper functioning within the medical and other health-science schools," he said.
Donors must contact a medical school in person but schools are restricted as to the types of bodies they can accept for teaching purposes.
Certain medical conditions --including hepatitis, HIV and CJD or so-called human 'mad cow' disease -- prevent bodies from being accepted.
Bodies which have been affected by even partial decomposition, extreme obesity or significant trauma cannot be used.
If a body is accepted, it is usually retained for two years, before being buried or cremated in accordance with the wishes of the donor.
The inaugural memorial service will take place at UCC's Honan Chapel next Thursday at 4pm.