The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Ethical practices for outdoor anthropological research facilities with willed body donation programs


Forensic Anthropology Center, Texas State University

Saturday 9:45-10:00, Ballroom A Add to calendar

Anthropological research facilities that depend on willed bodies face unique ethical dilemmas. The first outdoor anthropology research facility opened in 1981 at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Since 2006, three additional facilities have opened across the United States including the Forensic Anthropology Research Facility (FARF) at Texas State University. As a direct result of this growing area of research, the number of anthropologists associated with these facilities will continue to rise in the coming years. While this is an exciting new trend in anthropology, the creation of such facilities means that the anthropologists directing these programs are facing new ethical dilemmas. While there are local, state, and federal regulations governing these facilities and corresponding donor programs, universal ethical codes of conduct have not yet been established. Using FARF and the Willed Body Donation Program at Texas State as examples, this presentation will discuss the unique ethical dilemmas that anthropologists in these programs face. Specifically, it will address the issues of informed consent, ethical use of donated remains (including research design and destructive analyses), ethical treatment of curated skeletal remains, and public education. By elucidating these challenges, this presentation hopes to initiate dialogue among anthropologists and help promote the creation of standard ethical practices among all such facilities.

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