'Can you be a doctor, even if you faint?' The tacit lessons of cadaveric dissection

13 Apr 2018

Background: The undergraduate Medicine course at the University of Cambridge has included cadaveric dissection as part of its anatomy teaching for over three centuries. In recent years, medical schools in the UK and the US have debated whether cadaveric dissection is a useful and efficient way of teaching anatomy. Existing research on this subject has focused narrowly on the knowledge-acquisition for medical students afforded through dissection, and thus we have broadened the scope of such considerations to include the emotional responses of medical students to the dissection process. Subjects and methods: The basis for this paper is a phenomenological analysis of response data gathered from 56 first year medical students at the University of Cambridge through written questionnaires and discussion groups before and after their first experiences of cadaveric dissection. Results: Our research suggests that there are in fact many more lessons taught and acquired through studying in the dissection room: they are tacit, emotional, experiential and dispositional. Conclusions: When this wider picture of the value of dissection is considered, a much stronger case for the continued inclusion of cadaveric dissection in the medical curriculum can be made, as it is a valuable and unique educational experience.