04:34 GMT +328 May 2018
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    Thousands of Danish Brains to Go Down the Drain in Cutback Effort

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    Denmark may soon lose of the world's largest collection of human brains, which took decades to collect, as the hospital which housed the collection closed down and is to be converted into a housing scheme. To move the peerless collection to a new hospital has been deemed too expensive.

    The roughly 10 thousand human brains were collected between 1945 and 1982 and belonged to mentally ill patients at the Risskov Psychiatric Hospital in the city of Aarhus. Previously, the collection was used to try and figure out the cause of depression in schizophrenia and dementia sufferers by looking at changes over time. At present, the 9,479 brains, one of the world's largest collections, are stored in the hospital basement, where they are soaking in formalin solution to help them maintain their sticky consistency and shape.

    However, Region Midtjylland, which is responsible for the hospital services in the region, as well as Aarhus University are about to scrap the Risskov collection, because the hospital has already been sold and is currently being converted into housing. Moving the "homeless" brains to a new hospital building in Skejby has been ruled too expensive.

    "It costs millions to move them. Their scientific value does not justify keeping them," Kristjar Skajaa, the head of the Department of Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University, told Danish TV-channel TV2, stressing that the collection was actually used "surprisingly little."

    However, the Danish National Association for Mental Health (Sind) believes that is important to ensure that the brain collection bears no scientific value, before ultimately ditching the brains. Support statements were received from universities in Europe and North America. Sind chairman Knud Kristensen warned that economic considerations should not overshadow the judgment.

    "Basically, we are of the opinion that back then a serious error was committed, when all these brains were taken out without the patients' or their relatives' consent," Knud Kristensen told Danish Radio.

    The brains were removed under state-controlled conditions, at a time when obtaining permission from either the patients themselves or their relatives was not mandatory. Sind believes that treating the remnants of former patients with respect is both a duty and an obligation to their relatives.

    "This means that you don't simply discard it, if it is found valuable. And even if it has no value, you dispose of it in an ethically responsible way," Knud Kristensen said.

    At present, Sind offered no concrete suggestions of how exactly the brains should be discarded and would welcome a discussion on this issue.

    About two thousand of the brains have accompanying records. The final decision will be taken by the regional council in June.

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    medicine, brain, Scandinavia, Denmark
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