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March, 2014, Vol. 14, Issue 03

Our Important Silent Teachers in the Dissection Lab

By David Kent, LMT, NCTMB

Just like our clients, in life they were mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, aunts and uncles. Their occupation was bus driver, teacher, homemaker, law enforcement officer, railroad worker, firefighter, mechanic, electrician, nurse and postal carrier.

They vary in age, sex, race, size and shape. Each had a different life experience, cultural background, education and personality. Yet while living, they where similar, they had foresight and took the actions necessary to make themselves available for us to learn.

Their special gift provides an irreplaceable component to our knowledge of the human body and the skills we acquire to help others. Without their dedication to education, this hands-on learning experience would not exist. Their gift allows us to study clinical anatomy by dissecting to see the variations of the human body, the effects of aging and the results of diseases and surgeries. We are very grateful for the knowledge they chose to share. In respect to their exquisite souls, we begin and end each full body dissection workshop with a dedication to "Our Silent Teachers."

They are many questions to this type of seminar so I want to answer some Frequently Asked Questions about medical willed-body programs. Please keep in mind the laws and regulations vary from one state to another and from program to program.

dissection lab - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark How does someone donate his or her body to become a "Silent Teacher?" If interested, specific paperwork must be on file with the Willed Body Program in your state prior to the donor passing. The process is easy and begins by the donor discussing their wishes with their legal next of kin. Then, completing two original consent forms that require the signature of the donor and two witnesses. One original form is mailed to the state Willed Donor Program, the other is kept by the donor's legal next of kin.

Some states can accept donations of deceased individuals that are not previously signed up. Under some circumstances, a spouse, registered domestic partner, attorney-in-fact, or children of the donor may make a donation at the time of death.

Can the donation be made to a specific college or program? Many Willed Body Programs allow the donor to specify the college, program and/or the type of research they will be supporting and facilitating. The donor can withdraw or redirect their donation to a different program at any time prior to passing.

Are there cases in which a donor is not accepted? Donors may not be accepted if an autopsy has been performed or they have donated their organs. A contagious disease exists such as virulent herpes, hepatitis, HIV, tuberculosis or some cases of senile dementia. Other conditions include crushing injuries, decomposition, severe obesity or emaciation. Most programs require the entire body. Depending on the program, surgeries like coronary bypass, hip and knee joint replacement, bunionectomy, spinal fusion, laminectomy, etc. are not an issue. These donors are excellent examples for students to see and learn clinical anatomy while having a hands-on understanding of its application.

dissection lab - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark What does the next of kin do after the donor passes? It depends on the specific Willed Donor Program. The registration packet will have instructions and phone numbers.

How long will the donor be needed? To perform studies and research, the donor is typically needed for two years. Some programs require more time and a few need the donation indefinitely for ongoing research. The donor is informed of the time commitment prior to registering for the program.

What happens to the donor after the studies are complete? The Willed Body Registration Packet will have the specific details. In many states, the donor is cremated and returned to the next of kin or location of final interment.

How can an individual get a Willed Body Registration Packet? Go online and search "Willed Body Program State of (enter the donor's state)." Books, charts, models, videos and computer programs are helpful aids to learning about the human body. However hands-on dissection provides a clear understanding of the interconnection of the structures that form the body and how they function.

Since 1993, I have been honored and fortune to study with so many Silent Teachers. Their special gift provides an irreplaceable component to our knowledge of the human body and the skills we acquire to help others. We will never forget these exquisite souls, whose final unselfish act compels each of us in the dissection lab to use the knowledge they provide in ways that will honor their spirits.

Click here for previous articles by David Kent, LMT, NCTMB.


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