The anatomical gift: would you donate your body to medical schools for education and research? Now, would I donate my body, knowing how invaluable the introductory anatomy experience has been for fresh medical students? After learning so much about the human body and functions from methodical dissections, I am grateful to the people who have given their bodies to science. I still cannot stomach to think about the cadavers as people like you and me when they were alive. They have families who miss them. They used to have jobs, talents, feelings, reminiscent childhoods, college sweethearts, favorite foods and flowers, amusing memories, etc… they were humans. Most lived a full life, up to 80s and 90s, though the end was likely wrought with sadness and suffering. From the inside, we saw the physical damages brought on by cardiovascular disease, pulmonary failure, stroke, and cancer. Tumors gnawed away at lungs or the colon. Pulmonary embolism, huge pulmonary vessels, and hyperplasia, all contribute to severe pulmonary disease. A rock-solid thoracic aorta, likely from plaque-build up, atherosclerosis, and hypertension. The physical deterioration of the human body is inescapable and only a natural procession through life.
Back to my original reflection, would I donate my body? Personally, no, for religious and cultural reasons. In Chinese culture, it is believed we pass onto the afterlife with our bodies intact. If bodies are opened and parts tampered with, then the soul and spirit have been contaminated. Whether it’s traditional burial or cremation, the body needs to be whole.
I wonder if people know what really goes on in the laboratory, whether they and their families have been fully informed of their decisions. They may only see the unconditional glory in donating out of the goodness of their hearts for medical science and research, and not what happens to their bodies physically. At the end of their lives, the sick patients seek to pass their sufferings and escape to a better place.
Regardless of my personal proclivities, I am thankful to the people and families who gave the gift of knowledge to us. Currently, I am aboard the committee planning for the upcoming memorial ceremony in honor of the donors and their families. I am excited to be a part of this collaborative team in making this a memorable and meaningful experience for students, deans, families, friends and the community. This is really the first time I’m taking on a leadership role this significant and poignant.