Letter: Dissection: a respectful voyage of discovery

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your article 'Beware, Aunt Edna, if you give your all' (7 July), by David Delvin, not only calls into disrepute departments of anatomy, but more importantly ridicules and brings into disrespect the courageous and generous people who bequeath their bodies for medical research and study.

At Newcastle upon Tyne Medical School the professor of anatomy and his staff meet personally many of those who wish to bequeath their bodies. All bequests are made freely and no body is ever accepted without such a bequest. It is stated clearly that the body will be used for both research and study by students as they start in their careers of medicine, dentistry and other caring professions.

Anatomical dissections are largely performed by trainee surgeons and then demonstrated to the students. For both student and teacher the examination of the body is a voyage of discovery, in which the acquisition of knowledge is mixed with respect and gratitude for the donor. At Newcastle the bodies are also used for research by surgeons into a variety of clinical problems, eg reconstructive surgery, transplantation and orthopaedics.

Each academic year a service of thanksgiving is held to which are invited the relatives of those whose bodies were taken that year into the medical school. This year 120 relatives joined with 300 staff and students to give thanks for the lives of those who so generously gave their bodies. At the end of the service the relatives, staff and students met for coffee and biscuits. These are particularly meaningful occasions when the relatives appreciate the significance of the bequest for the development of the careers of young medical, dental and therapy students.

Yours sincerely,


Professor of Anatomy


Professor of Ophthalmology and Dean of Medicine

The Medical School

Newcastle upon Tyne

9 July