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Monday, 7 January 2013

Anatomy Lab

I had a session in the anatomy lab at university today where they keep the cadavers for medical science and my class had an introduction to the lab.

 I wasn't too worried about seeing the dead bodies, you had to place all your belongings away in a locker and wear a white lab coat and we walked into a cooled clinical looking room which they had one complete body on a metal table and on a different table they had a severed arm and a leg that had been skinned so you could see all the muscles and bones. 

This might sound gory but it really wasn't, it was all carried out very respectfully to the bodies, the genitals and face are covered and any tattoos are removed to protect the donors identity as much as possible. We only saw parts of the whole body not all of it at once and it looked like... well any other body really just still and stiff. The limbs looked like meat that you'd buy to cook, I suppose you don't think of meat that we eat being muscle but it is and it reminded me personally of roast beef. 

Apparently pretty much all of the donors are elderly, 80+, more women than men and they purposefully seek out to donate their body for anatomical study once they die which is really kind of them because it was really useful to see. The cadavers are specially embalmed using chemicals that preserve the tissue (this is why the bodies go stiff) and left for three months for the cadavers to gain the full benefit of the embalming chemicals the bodies are then used over the course of an academic year (or in special circumstances over three years) and then at the end of the year students and donor's families are invited to go to a special cremation of the donor's bodies and the students give thanks for them. We are the first nursing cohort to visit the anatomy lab (usually it's just med students) so this was very special. 

I hope you'll understand that I have no photos to share on this post but if you're interested (and I haven't put you off), I'd really recommend taking a look at some of Gunther von Hagens' work, he is the man that has the famous Body Exhibition - I saw it in New York whilst I was there and although you think you know what everyone looks like inside from books, it really is an eye opener. 


  1. Wow- what an opportunity. I would love for my university to allow nursing students to do something like this. It must make the process of caring for a patient who has passed away ever so slightly easier if you have seen a dead body before.

  2. I thought it might be like that but to be honest because you don't see them all at once and because they're so well embalmed etc it's not really like seeing a dead body, it's more like just... a foot, a hip etc. I think not seeing the face really takes away the fact that it's someone who's died. But was definitely an opportunity!

  3. That sounds like a brilliant opportunity! I watched Gunther von Hagens' documentary quite recently and was honestly freaked out. It would be amazing to see in person though, however weird it would feel at first.