The interior of a dissecting room
This is a typical scene in the dissecting room of a British
university medical school, perhaps around 1900-1910. The cadaver
lies on a ceramic anatomy-table. A gas lamp is above the corpse. A
student has placed a book on the cadaver's forearm as if the
cadaver were holding it for him - a mildly disrespectful action
that today a medical school would not condone. Two of the men are
smoking pipes (no disrespect there: smoking at work was normal).
Anatomical prints are suspended on the wall.
In examinations for medical degrees then, anatomy held a much
more important place than it does now, although even then there
were some who thought it was overvalued by comparison with other
qualifications required by general practitioners, such as an
understanding of pharmacology and of medical politics.
On the other hand, others have advocated that the dissection of
the human body would be a beneficial part of the school curriculum
at GCSE or A-level. Part of the success of the Bodyworlds
exhibitions staged by Gunther von Hagens has been due to the fact
that schools do not enable children to see what the human body
consists of or how it works. Where do the cadavers that are used in
university medical schools come from? Under current British
legislation, they come from people who will their bodies to medical
schools for this purpose.