Intended for healthcare professionals

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The Limits Of Medicine

Cadavers as teachers: the dissecting room experience in Thailand

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.329.7480.1455 (Published 16 December 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:1455

Rapid Response:

Good method to get cadavers for dissections

Dear Editor,

I am pleased to read the article by Andreas Winkelmann and Fritz H
Güldner on cadaveric dissection performed in Thailand medical schools.
Indeed it is a pleasure to know that the students and faculty respect the
cadaver and call it ‘ajarn yai’. Cadavers are respected in most of the
medical schools but these schools mentioned in the article are the
extremes of respects. We rarely see the colleges having a ceremonial
cremation for the dissected body after the dissection is over. In most of
the colleges, after the dissection is over, the dissected parts are sent
to the incinerators. The body donors are also very few in countries like
India. In most of the colleges of South India, the bodies for dissection
are not voluntarily donated bodies but they are unclaimed bodies.
Unclaimed bodies from the government hospitals or the municipalities will
reach the dissection hall.

There are two benefits of respecting the body donor’s cadaver by
calling it “great teacher” and then having a ceremonial cremation at the
end of the dissection course. This would make the students know how
difficult to get the bodies for dissection and they are not supposed to
waste any part by just cutting it the way they like. Students become more
disciplined in their anatomy dissection theater. On the other hand, there
may me more body donors. Many people are superstitious and they are scared
to donate their body after death. Some families are against donation of
the body. They think it is their right to cremate the body. So giving such
a “teacher” status to the dead body and cremating it after a good purpose
is really a good practice.

Dissection classes are being aborted in many medical courses because
of lack of availability of cadavers. Dissection is being discarded not
simply because it is not necessary to learn anatomy but for the non
availability of the cadavers also. All digital 3D images, clay models and
resin models are sophistications mainly because of non availability of
cadavers. If we still want to continue with dissections of the real
bodies, we have to plan certain strategies like what is followed in
Thailand.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

10 April 2005
Dr.Satheesha Nayak
Selection Grade Lecturer, Melaka Manipal Medical College (Manipal Campus)
Manipal, Udupi District, Karnataka State, INDIA. 576104