I didn’t really have much of an emotional problem in anatomy lab, until today. Today we were told to transect our cadavers just below the rib cage and prop their lower bodies up on goalposts. The rationale for this was so that we could have a good view of the perineal area.


Gynecologists can get a good view of the perineal area without needing to saw their patients in half. (Yes. We had to use saws to get through the vertebral column.) Ever heard of stirrups? They aren’t comfortable, but they are a damn sight better than what we had to do today.

I am extremely upset about this whole situation. Even the first day, when we uncovered the shrouds and looked at our cadaver’s face, was not quite so bad. We could say to each other, It’s ok — she donated her body. We’ll learn from her.” That belief helped us with our first cuts.

If this were the only way to learn, I would rationalize it. But it’s not.

Today, there was no pedagogical reason for what we did in the name of “learning.” I feel physically dirty for having violated a human body. I feel like a medieval medical student, grave-robbing cadavers, knowing what I am doing goes against every fiber of decency in myself — and doing it anyway.

Transections seems so innocuous on paper. And yet, looking around the room and seeing red-bagged feet dangling in the air — it was like something from Dante’s Inferno. It was disrespectful, had no academic value, and I am disgusted at myself for having taken part.

One thought on “Transection

  1. I understand how you feel. I felt that same way when I did the transection in my gross lab. I continued to feel that way throughout the head and face (especially the eye).

    It is a delicate thing that you are doing and the mere fact that you are conscious of the consequences validates that you are not inhumane or without awareness.

    Also, if your school has a memorial for the cadavers and their families, go to it. Talking to the families will soothe these feelings you are having and will restore your belief in learning from the donation.

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