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Hum Pathol. 1995 Jul;26(7):700-5.

Building on a tradition of ethical consideration of the dead.

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Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, OH, USA.


Medical culture espouses patient interaction based on detached concern, where emotional attachment to patients is attenuated to preserve objectivity. The body is viewed as nonliving matter in motion. Alternatively, the cadaver may be considered a gift. To receive so awesome a gift is an extraordinary privilege; acknowledgment of this gift affirms our interconnectedness with our community and offers a way to provide for its betterment. Gift exchange establishes a relationship between donor and recipient, and the absence of an assigned worth leaves open the cycle of giving and receiving for future exchanges. Inherent within undertaking a dissection lies an obligation that the gift not be wasted. Donating one's body for dissection meets the criteria for the highest levels of charity as set forth by the 12th-century philosopher, physician, and rabbinic scholar Moses Maimonides. Preserving the anonymity of cadavers protects students as well by enabling them to dissect in an environment that respects the sensitive and difficult nature of the work. Maimonides provides support for formalizing the anonymous relationship between student and cadaver. The anonymous nature of the gift provides enormous latitude for using the skills thus gained to serve one's patients and to benefit the common good.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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