use of cadavers in medical training

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    At my recent interview I was surprised to learn that the medical school was one of the few left (in the UK) that uses cadavers and that dissection is optional. I’m not sure what the reasons are, possibly technological advancements and lack of cadavers. I just assumed that all medical schools used them. Can anyone shed any light? Does your school not use them? They do use alternative methods such as, videos, parts and living people where possible.


    As you know, Im not in medical school yet, but my somewhat small undergrad university has cadavers. I took gross human anatomy just last semester and dissected a male and female cadaver.

    EM momEM mom

    I may be biased being a surgical resident, but you can not adequately learn anatomy without a cadaver! Sure technology is good, and can aid greatly in your study, but it can not replace the real thing!

    shauna ,MS,MomMD2Bshauna,MS,MomMD2B

    My med sch uses cadavers. I feel as though the hands on learning is essential! It’s important to me to SEE organs/tissues in relationship to other organs/tissue up close and personal.

    The anatomy text book pics are unrealistically ‘perfect’ and can’t come close to studying the human body for one’s self. The other day, I learned to recognize an artery from it’s corresponding vein, by comparing and contrasting the feel of each (muscular vs. nonmuscular). No book or video could have given me that! :wave: I emailed you earlier).



    Adding to all of this, humans can vary anatomically. Like the sciatic nerve may not be located/positioned where it usually is, and other variances. It is always nice to run up on things like that. It makes a good learning experience!

    M -AM-A

    I’m not in med school yet, but I know that all the medical schools in Canada use human cadavers, and even some undergrad programs.

    I even got to view a human cadaver specimen gallery at the University of Toronto even though I’m not a student. They have every human body part encased in a glass case with formaldehyde. It was absolutely fascinating, and I agree that textbooks are definitely not the same as seeing the real thing.


    DrWuStar *DrWuStar*

    i am not in med school yet either, but i know that the med school in my town uses cadavers that were previously disected. the med students only look at them, they don’t cut them anymore. i am not sure exactly why.


    I’m with those who say that you can’t adequately learn anatomy without cadavers. No computer model, video, book can suffice, IMO. I’d definitely take advantage of the “optional” dissection. It takes time, but you’ll learn it better.


    … fact, I plan on doing another dissection next year as a senior elective….not because I loved Gross or anything, but because I think it’s very important to know anatomy. Have the books, but the opportunity to really learn from a cadaver is rare and can’t be matched by any of the books or computer programs.



    I’m not in med school yet, but I recently visited two med schools: UCSF and Stanford — they have different approaches.

    (This is what I understood from my visits)
    At UCSF, the students no longer do full dissections– they study prosections (already prepared, dissected parts of cadavers) — I was told that the reason for this was to save valuable time — that the students would have more time to study the details instead of starting from scratch. Still, the students could choose to do an elective where they could dissect a whole cadaver.
    From what I know, this is a new approach — not standard practice in most med schools. BTW the gross anatomy lab there has a great view of the city 😉

    At Stanford they still do full cadavers — in fact, the students were telling me that they “import” some of their profs from England just for the anatomy lab. When I asked the Stanford students about prosections, they said that they thought it was important to do the entire process.

    Both schools’ labs were accessible 24-7 (fun)

    I’m pretty surprised that most med schools in the UK no longer use real cadavers — do you think this is due to “better technology” or just to save money? The students I spoke with thought that it was an important experience in med school — hopefully I’ll find out soon.
    Sethina, congrats on your acceptance — I take it you’re going to England?


    I think entire cadaver dissection could surely be elective…so time consuming, such a use of resources. Obviously those who will become surgeons need it but the truth is for the rest of us I think limited dissection plus alternate means of studying anatomy would be more than adequate (how much anatomy do I really remember/use in IM? not much). I think probably for most med schools gross anatomy is sort of a vestigial organ from the bad old days when they had to learn all the anatomy in excrutiating detail because that was the body of knowledge they needed to set them apart from the general lay. Now that we have to learn about G proteins, apoptosis, endothelial dysfunction, and all this biochem and whatnot it’s just not as necessary.


    I’m MS-1, I’ve dissected before and now we’ve started dissections at my med school. Have to disagree with our last reply given here. Medicine is an art and a science. People’s bodies vary! One must get a FEEL for where things are, how they related three-dimensionally (can’t get that from a text, not even ones as good as Netter or Rohen). Every body also yields a surprise or two when dissected: probably cause of death, abnormal tissue changes, structural discrepancies due to past injury, surgery, genetics, et al. Most importantly, in terms of clinical practice, one must get comfortable with touching people AND get comfortable with death. Gross lab IS morbid, but in the most honest way. If your school is going ultra-high-tech on this, I think they’re missing the boat. Technology removes the “earthiness” of the body, separates the med student from a dead person (which is most likely the first expereince with the dead for many med students, aside from funerals). Technology is not palpable in the sense that we need it to be!

    My school also has state-of-the-art computers with “great” interactive anatomy programs…these are right beside our dissecting tables & cadavers. Guess what? The images on the computer screen is difficult to see, ambiguous both in 3D and even 2D, ambiguous in general (as in “where precisely are they really pointing to?”), etc. I learn so much more from my cadaver, my classmates cadavers, and Rohen, Netter, & Moore.

    It concerns me when I hear of either med school faculty or med students praise the technology more than the wonders of the body. Accept no substitutes for the real thing!


    This is interesting. Obviously, you get to touch everything at this school. I am wondering though if there are such a lack of bodies being left to medical science that they have to take these measures. I for one will most definitely be dissecting. I think they have also increased the amount of work on live patients.


    For those who use cadavers at their school, do you have some sort of ceremony for the cadavers which their families attend? My bf’s school does. What do you think about that?

    EM momEM mom

    We did have a ceremony, but at least my year the families did not attend (it was planned for the future, but I’m not sure if it has been implemented or not). The ceremony was very nice, a few people read things, one girl who had a CD out sang, several people played instruments. It was a very nice, respectful tribute for those people who dedicated so much to our education!

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