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J Anat. 2003 May;202(5):475-7.

Effects of detailed information about dissection on intentions to bequeath bodies for use in teaching and research.

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Department of Anatomy, University of Bristol, UK.


Almost all UK medical schools teach anatomy using human bodies that have been bequeathed specifically for the purpose. Persons intending to make this most generous gift should be fully informed about how their body will be used. If detailed descriptions of dissection reduce the number of bequests, then this traditional and effective approach to anatomy teaching will have to change. To determine what effect detailed information has on intentions to bequeath, the Department of Anatomy at Bristol University sent all 139 people who asked for information, between July and December 2001, a description of dissection that included the statement 'Anatomical examination requires that bodies be dissected (taken apart) so that the fine detail of internal structures can be seen. Organs, such as the heart, lungs and brain, are often removed from the body to allow for more detailed study.' Views were sought by questionnaire (response rate 88%). Ninety-nine per cent of respondents intended to bequeath their body and 88% would allow it to be used in research or teaching with the department to make the final decision. Thus the provision of detailed information about dissection should not reduce the number of bequests and this mechanism could, subject to law, make bodies available for research as well as for teaching.

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