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Clin Anat. 2019 Nov;32(8):1019-1032. doi: 10.1002/ca.23389. Epub 2019 May 3.

Sharing personal information about anatomical body donors: What first-year medical students want to know and how it affects emotional responses to dissection.

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Department of Pathology and Anatomy, Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia.
Office of Medical Student Education, Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont.
Department of Psychiatry, Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont.


Among educators who teach in the human anatomy laboratory, there has been lively debate about sharing information about anatomical donors. One consideration in this debate is concern about the emotional effect of personalizing donors on the students. The purpose of this study was to evaluate student responses to being exposed to donor information (DI). Three cohorts of first-year medical students (n = 284) were surveyed at four time points throughout the year. Surveys queried students about positive and negative responses to working in the laboratory, wanting to know specific DI, and if knowing this DI would/did affect their responses to working with donors. Analyses examined the relationships between desire to know DI and indices of the following: positive response index (PRI), negative response index (NRI), avoid-approach index (AAI), and compassion-respect index. Across all surveys, a majority of respondents wanted to know some form of DI. At all time points, a majority of respondents felt that knowing all types of DI would increase their positive responses to working with donors. A greater PRI and AAI tended to be associated with wanting to know more personal DI (e.g., names and personal histories). A greater NRI tended to be associated with anticipating that learning personal DI would increase their negative responses before entering the laboratory, which did not persist after dissection began. These data suggest that for a majority of students, knowing personal DI increases their positive response and does not elicit negative responses to dissection or working with anatomical donors. Clin. Anat. 32:1019-1032, 2019.


anatomy; dissection; emotion; humanism; medical education

[Available on 2020-11-01]
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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