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Soc Sci Med. 2008 Feb;66(4):963-9. Epub 2007 Dec 26.

Entrepreneurial ventures and whole-body donations: a regional perspective from the United States.

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Harvard Business School, Organizational Behavior Area, Boston, MA 02163, USA.


Human cadavers are crucial to medical science. While the debate on how to secure sufficient cadavers has focused primarily on donors' behaviors, procuring organizations' roles in increasing donations remain less explored. The United States offers a unique setting in which to examine this question since entrepreneurial ventures supplying cadavers for medical science have recently emerged alongside traditional academic-housed programs, raising both hopes and fears about their impact on whole-body donations. To assess their potential impact, an archival survey of voluntary, in-state whole-body donors to two programs procuring in the same U.S. state was conducted. The programs' specimen recipients were also analyzed. One program is academic-housed and the other is an entrepreneurial venture. Both offered equal levels of financial support to donating parties. Eighty donations and 120 specimen shipping invoices from 2005 were analyzed in each program. Donations to the two programs did not significantly differ in terms of donors' sex, marital status, maximum educational level, and estimated hourly wage. The entrepreneurial venture's donors were, however, significantly younger, more likely to be from a minority group, and more likely to have died from cancer. For-profit organizations, continuing medical training organizations, and medical device companies were more likely recipients of the entrepreneurial venture's specimens. Non-profit and academic organizations were more likely recipients of the academic-housed program's specimens. These findings suggest that although the programs procured from a somewhat similar pool of donors, they also complemented one another. The entrepreneurial program procured donations that the academic-housed program often did not attract. Specimen recipients' distinct demands partly explain these procurement behaviors. Thus, organizational efforts to meet demands seem to shape the supply. Examining organizations alongside donors might provide new answers to secure donations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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