The regional council is shutting down the collection of brains... possibly
The politicians of the Central Denmark Region’s regional council followed Aarhus University's recommendation not to keep the collection of brains from the Psychiatric Hospital. However, the region is open to the possibility of transferring the collection to a worthy recipient, if one turns up before the turn of the year.
The brains of the 9,479 psychiatric patients will be destroyed in 2018, unless a recognised research institute is prepared to take ownership of the collection. This was decided by the politicians at the meeting of the regional council on Wednesday 21 June. It is now up to the Central Denmark Region to explore the possibilities of finding a new owner. During the consultation process leading up to the decision, there were many declarations about the potential value of the collection. The region will now explore whether one of these can lead to a new owner being found.
According to the Danish Health Act, the region and ultimately the regional council have the legal responsibility for research conducted in the healthcare sector. For this reason, the recommendation that the regional council should shut down the collection of brains was therefore made by the region's administration. Aarhus University assessed the scientific value of the collection and provided a professionally substantiated declaration of support. Kristjar Skajaa, head of Department of Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University, commented on the decision in a previous interview:
"It would cost several million Danish kroner to move and preserve the collection, and when we compare the cost to the scientific value, then the conclusion is that its value is not commensurate with the costs. This is not about a department saving money. It is a question of due diligence when it comes to comparing the research value with the considerable costs incurred in connection with moving and maintaining the collection for posterity in the new buildings at Skejby," said Kristjar Skajaa.
Head of biobank says no thanks
During the consultation, a number of stakeholders gave the region their own assessments. These include the Statens Serum Institut (SSI), who recognise the status of the collection as unique material. Nevertheless, the scientific director of SST's biobank, Helle Bossen Konradsen, does not wish to take over the brains after a professional assessment. During the course of various projects, SST has examined various parts of the collection of brains and found that "the quality of the material does not make it usable for either microscopic or molecular-biological studies," as they write in their reply.
SIND (the Danish National Association for Mental Health) appeals to the Central Denmark Region to make certain that the collection does not have any scientific value before it is shut down. If this turns out to be the only solution, then the collection should be disposed of in an ethically responsible manner. Not least in light of the injustice that was committed against the patients when the brains where collected at that time, as this took place without the relatives being asked to give their consent, as SIND writes.
The Central Denmark Region has until 31 December 2017 to find a possible recipient of the collection of brains.
Department Head Kristjar Skajaa
Aarhus University, Department of Clinical Medicine
Telephone: (+45) 7845 9000