I remember working on cadavers in my anatomy class, back in the first year of medical school.
It was in the basement of the building, locked tightly away. The students would huddle around an exam table, and look on, amazed gazes fixed on their faces, eyes as wide as can be. There would be buzzing of whispered excitement as that day’s section was revealed. It didn’t matter to us who lay behind the anatomical pieces of that particular lesson’s unveiled parts, but that it contained essentials needed for learning.
There was a beauty to the bodies that still makes me shudder today- the beauty we contain on the inside, no matter how our outside appears. On that dissection table, the body was anonymous. Formaldehyde-preservation and all, it was a beautiful site.
With no name, no financial status, no profession or title, the body no longer owned ‘things’. It was simply the casings of a soul, left behind in the name of science.
I spent hours there, in my anatomy lab, studying the different parts of the body.
Marked off were the joints, ligaments, muscles, bones.
I particularly recall the brain, maybe because I was a Neuroscience major in my undergraduate years. It’s pieces had been labeled carefully with tiny pins- a sight to remember, worthy of the most interesting of museum exhibits. Painstaking work had elucidated minuscule components to our expanding medical student minds.
The dissection alone took weeks to prepare, as pieces soaked in formaldehyde and were prepared for our indulgence- that of our thirsty minds.
I look back now, having graduated over 13 years ago, and I think of the lives that those cadavers lived. Men and women, like you and I, were sitting around a table, reading a book, daydreaming during their day, when they made a generous and selfless decision to contribute their body to science. They were breathing the air of life while choosing their fate once that air ceased. Their death would further science. For me. For my classmates.
Donating your body to science is a priceless decision. I dedicate this article to all of the cadavers that generously allowed themselves to help me learn, and become the doctor that I am today.
To get in touch with an organization that can help facilitate the donation of a body to science, contact Science Care.