Whitney Palmer

Healthcare. Politics. Family.

UC System Adopts New Guidelines for Willed Body Programs

Published in the July 2005 AAMC Reporter

On July 1, the University of California System implemented new security and administrative procedures to ensure that the willed bodies used by medical educators are monitored and treated with respect.

The changes increase security surrounding donated bodies by bolstering the investigation of potential

UCLA Medical Center

employees and closely tracking the uniform day-to-day operations of all programs within the UC System. The new procedures drafted by a task force convened by University of California President Robert C. Dynes last spring when the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine suspended its willed body program and removed the program’s director for allegedly selling body parts for profit.

“We wanted to strip down the program to its bare structure and look at every aspect, from donation to financial considerations to proper handling of specimens to rapid delivery,” said Michael Drake, M.D., UCLA vice president for health affairs. “We tried to streamline the program and maximize transparency, efficiency and quality.”

The task force’s main goal was strengthening donor confidence and preventing violations by employees. In addition to the violation of donor and donor family trust, Drake said the image of the university system suffered. Accusations of criminal activity reflected poorly on the employees who had done nothing wrong. He added that one of the biggest challenges in incorporating the new guidelines was convincing the leaders of UC schools without past problems that the new measures were necessary.

Employees of all UC willed body programs will now use the same forms and electronic record templates to enroll donors and gather information about specimens rather than rely on paperwork tailored for each school. Also, a local anatomical review committee and a system-wide review committee must approve any requests to use a specimen for research before it is made available. A supervisory group, comprising of both university officials and public representatives, will periodically visit the programs unannounced at various times to ensure the new policies are being followed.

A sizeable increase in security, however, is the biggest change. All loading docks used by the willed body programs now have security cameras. There is a daily electronic report of all activity involving donors, and storage rooms have an omni-lock system that requires pass codes. Certain pass codes work only during specific hours, such as those for the janitorial staff. The omni-lock system keeps track of who has access to donor bodies and records the time they enter storage facilities. In addition, willed bodies will have an implanted radio frequency identification chip that will store information and help employees monitor their use.

The university system has already expended more than 9,000 person-hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars redesigning its system, repairing the program’s reputation, and reassuring the public that every precaution against criminal activity has been taken. The result, according to both Drake and Michael Whitcomb, M.D., AAMC senior vice president for medical education, is a program that will be a benchmark for other medical schools seeking to revamp existing programs or develop new ones.

“My view is that the UC approach will become the gold standard against which all other willed body programs will be judged,” Whitcomb said.

During the AAMC’s Executive Council meeting in June, the Council of Deans agreed to plan round-table discussions where schools can discuss with Drake how to design new willed body programs or revamp existing ones. The willed body programs in California also instituted a more extensive background check for potential employees. Drake said the university would apply screening procedures similar to those used when filling positions that require handling of university funds.

According to Brandi Schmitt, director of anatomical donations for the UC System, the willed body program directors are pleased with the new changes because they will reassure potential donors of the program’s safety.

“These changes are important for our campus directors because they acknowledge that we are providing a really wonderful service for donors and that the donors are providing a huge benefit to humanity and their community,” Schmitt said. “The campus directors truly care how our donors feel about us, and they want to make sure these individuals know that we can’t do what we do without them.”

Another challenge to implementing the new policies and procedures effectively will be training all employees to use the new security technology, according to Schmitt. However, she believes that once training is complete, administration of the willed body program will be easier and more efficient.

Reprinted by the Redwood Funeral  Society: http://www.funeral.org/donor/ucsystem.html

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March 22, 2010 - Posted by | Healthcare | , , ,

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