We Want Your Body

Every week in this country hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of people drop dead. Disease, accident, old age, total boredom … never mind the cause, we're off to meet our maker with clockwork regularity.

This may be very sad, but it does provide steady employment for florists, casket makers, grave diggers and stone masons. And it ought to offer a gushing stream of new cases for England's trainee medical profession.

But there is a problem. For some reason, the body flow in that direction is drying up.

Five years ago, 670 English corpses were offered to medical students every year. Since then, however, medicine has become a much more popular thing to study, and bodies a much less popular thing to donate.

So the medical schools are feeling cut up, precisely because they're running out of things to cut up.

Now if you are feeling a little weak this morning, pale, out of sorts maybe … have no fear. You are highly unlikely to be visited by an English doctor who will make you an offer you can't refuse. Well, not yet anyway.

You see, giving your old skin and bones to be filled full of formaldehyde and then sliced open to help tomorrow's MDs do a better job is an entirely personal choice. They will not begin sharpening their scalpels until you tick the box.

And even after that it becomes a special relationship between student and cadaver. Normally one group works on a particular body for a whole year. Which means they get on first name terms.

My own doctor, for example, vividly remembers George, an athletic 72 year old, who wasn't in any way chatty, but they still got to know his ins and outs. And they always stitched him up carefully afterwards.

But in this country we seem to have gone suddenly squeamish. Medical students are now having to rely on textbooks and computer generated corpses. They may smell better – but you know there's nothing like the real thing.

Please give generously.