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article imageCorpses pile up in Madrid University 'Chamber of Horrors'

By Anne Sewell     May 19, 2014 in Health
Madrid - Many people donate their corpses to science in Spain these days in order to avoid funeral costs. It turns out they are now piling up in a basement at the Complutense University, like something out of a horror television show.
Spain's El Mundo newspaper reported the story on Monday, stating that literally hundreds of cadavers, originally donated to the university for scientific experimentation, have been left in a basement at the university, at room temperature, for years.
The newspaper described it as the stuff of nightmares and compared it to scenes from the popular TV show, "The Walking Dead."
The basement of the Anatomy and Embryology department of Madrid's Complutense University has around 250 corpses heaped around, leftover from experiments by students.
Of the horrific photos taken in the basement, El Mundo says, "This is not Auschwitz in 1942. Nor is it Srebrenica, the horror of the former Yugoslavia in the 90s. Nor is it Rwanda with the Hutu against the Tutsi." This is Madrid in 2014. However, the scene is equally bad with cadavers scattered around the basement, all mixed together, in a macabre atmosphere impossible to describe.
The newspaper described the scene of the piles of blackened and twisted bodies. The cadavers are divided into several rooms surrounded by dark corridors and where furniture, dust and many cobwebs exist.
In what El Mundo dub "the chamber of horrors," dozens of bodies appear to be mummified and sit in an area measuring 30 square meters (323 square feet) with only a high up and very dirty window, which is permanently closed.
They state that on both sides of the corridor there are tubs of formaldehyde covered with metal plates, in which there may even be more bodies.
The newspaper described seeing a pair of unlabeled "black feet" sitting on the "lid of a rubbish bin," and has published a video showing graphic and grisly images of the cadavers and body parts piled up in the basement.
The writer attempted to watch the video showing the images on the El Mundo article, but stopped after a couple of moments. The scenes are quite simply horrific.
According to staff at the university, however, everything is in order. Department director Ramón Mérida told the newspaper that the department "is not rich" and stressed that there is no health risk. He did admit that some of the bodies have been stored in the basement for "up to five years," adding that "infected bodies" are "incinerated immediately."
"The member of staff who operated the (incinerating) oven took early retirement in December and we haven't been able to advertise the position because the unions say the oven is in poor condition," Mérida explained.
According to the unions, the oven emits poisonous gases and is dangerous to use. The unions also denounced the horrific conditions in the basement.
Mérida did continue, saying that everything will be made right. He said that the civil servant who had retired will apparently spend some time burning the remains, and that the balance will now be taken to other ovens.
Apparently the University also responded to El Mundo's report by saying a funeral company will start removing the corpses in the next few days. The university also released a statement in which they said that the photos (printed by El Mundo) "give a distorted image of the reality" and said that the newspaper had been "secretly taking the photos in a restricted area."
“The cadaveric remains were undergoing a drying process necessary prior to incineration,” the statement explained. “They cannot be disposed of while they contain the chemical products used in order to study them.”
According to the university, they follow all protocols correctly and have now launched an investigation into the matter.
Apparently the Spanish Anatomy Society does have guidelines on the storage of bodies which have been donated to science, although with no formal legal framework. According to Madrid's Health Department, laws only deal with burials, autopsies and the transfer of bodies. The Education Department states that universities are independent institutions and are thus outside of their control.
It seems, however, that the Complutense University continues receiving new bodies and these can amount to up to 50 per year. This becomes more prevalent as people donate their bodies to science to avoid funeral costs during Spain's economic crisis.
Spanish sources:
El Mundo
Periodista Digital
El Pais
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