University of Kentucky overhauls body bequeathal program

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto is apologizing for problems found in the school's handling of bodies donated to science.

After the Lexington Herald-Leader ( ) published a story in January about a backlog in burials of remains of people who gave their bodies for research, Capilouto ordered an internal audit. On Tuesday, the university said it is overhauling the program.

"I want to apologize on behalf of the entire UK community for the failings we have uncovered in this important program," Capilouto said. "The body bequeathal program has long been important to our teaching mission. It has also 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."

The university said numerous problems were found with administration and oversight of the program, including a three- to five-year delay in burying remains. No financial impropriety or misuse of donated remains was found by the audit, the school said.

The position of program director Gary Ginn was eliminated. Ginn, who also is the Fayette County coroner, did not immediately respond to a message left with the office's answering service Tuesday. He previously said budget problems were to blame, then said he'd been off work with an illness.

The program was handed over to a third-party administrator, Kentucky Mortuary Services of Lexington. A request for proposals will be issued to find a permanent administrator, officials said.

There are 235 cremated remains at the university that have not been buried. University officials said they are contacting all of those families.

The university's review of other body bequeathal programs indicated the time between cremation and burial should be six months. At UK, it averages 3.2 years.

The audit also found problems with record-keeping, documentation and correspondence with families. Many records were kept on paper, instead of on computer files. Auditors found it difficult to track records of donations and student fees used to finance the program and couldn't always tell from records when burials had taken place.

Don Gash, who oversaw the program as chairman of UK's anatomy and neurobiology department, will step down as chairman, provost Tim Tracy said. He declined to comment further on a personnel matter. The dean of the College of Medicine will now oversee the program.

"This is about institutional oversight, and we should have done better," Tracy said of the audit's findings.

Two fees will be eliminated — $300 burial fees and an $87 fee from each student at the health colleges who used the bodies in their studies. UK will now pay for the program's annual budget, roughly $150,000, from its general fund.


Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader,

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