Friday, 31 March 2017

Learning to be good doctors from the dead

Learning to be good doctors from the dead Dissection of the human cadaver is a fundamental part of training of doctors. All specialities of medicine require a knowledge of the human anatomy. Dissection allows a student to directly see and touch the intricate structure of the human body, the various organs, muscles, bones, etc., or its various anomalies, which no digital technology can simulate, however advanced it may be. This visual imprint on the mind perhaps stays on for life. Medicine is not all science; it is not just about being able to interpret lab reports, or read an x-ray or CT scans etc. or prescribing medicines. Doctors have been regarded as next to God since Vedic times and no other profession has been accorded the same exalted status as that of the medical doctor. This places a responsibility on the doctors to nurture the doctor-patient relationship, based on trust and mutual respect. Doctors should be compassionate, empathetic, courteous and respect the dignity of the patients, their privacy and confidentiality. These are qualities that can be inculcated in doctors, right from the first day, they enter a medical college to begin their education. When a medical student enters a dissection hall for the first time, he/she may experience a mix of different emotions... anxiety, stress or even excitement in taking that first step towards being a real doctor. It is important to cultivate in them respect for the cadaver or the dead human body. While they teach us the anatomy of the human body, they can also teach us ‘humane’ qualities, which will make a medical student, a good doctor later on. These cadavers were once living persons, just like us. Disrespecting them means disrespecting the dead person. Many cadavers would have been voluntarily donated during a person’s lifetime. This is a gesture that is truly selfless and altruistic, made for research for advancement of medicine or training of medical students, the future doctors. Or, the body may have been donated after death by the family or legal heirs to teaching institutions. It is therefore important to respect the family that has suffered an irreversible loss. Disrespecting the cadaver would mean disrespecting the family of the dead person. After they have been used, the cadavers are usually buried, without any rituals. There should be a funeral service for the used cadavers with all rituals as an act of respect. Students should take a ‘Cadaveric oath’ on their first day in the dissection hall before starting the dissection. An example of such a cadaveric oath can be as below: “I … do solemnly pledge that I will always respect the cadaver. I will always treat the cadaver with dignity. I will be compassionate towards the cadaver. I will respect the privacy and confidentiality of the cadaver. I will be grateful to the cadaver and/or their family or legal heir/s for the gift of knowledge. I will be altruistic and use my knowledge for the service of society.” The way we treat the dead body will shape our interactions with a living person. A dissection hall is a good place to learn to be caring and compassionate doctors. Dr KK Aggarwal National President IMA & HCFI

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