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O`seas Courses Using Fresh Cadavers Growing Popular

Posted May. 21, 2009 07:17,   


Five pairs of Korean doctors stood at tables at a university hospital lab in Thailand yesterday. On the tables lay human corpses.

At the direction of a professor, they began incision on the chest of the cadavers. Since they were not embalmed with formalin, the cadavers looked alive.

More Korean plastic surgeons are taking cadaver dissection courses abroad. A Korean company arranging medical seminars is recruiting students for cadaver courses in Thailand. The company has put up an advertisement for the four-day medical trip on its homepage, which says, “Fresh cadavers without preservation treatment will be presented.”

Participating doctors will use fresh cadavers that have been kept in freezers, not in formalin, to practice plastic surgery. Every two doctors will get one cadaver.

Medical students normally use embalmed cadavers. Four to eight students dissect a cadaver from head to toe. Unlike students, doctors who deal with patients prefer fresh cadavers because their skin and blood vessels remain intact. Fresh cadavers start to decay after thawing, however, so they must be used within three days.

The trip provides a very rigorous program. Except for departure and return, doctors must fully concentrate on both the training and seminars.

An employee at a company arranging the program said, “Along with training and seminars, they also go sightseeing,” adding, “If they pay extra, they can play golf and watch shows at night.”

Only two companies provide such services but have suffered a slight decline due to the economic slowdown. The four-day trip costs 2.9 million won (2,300 U.S. dollars).

Jwa Hun-jeong, a PR manager at the Korean Medical Association, said, “From a medical perspective, the practice of vivisection is very important,” adding, “Doctors have limited opportunities to practice dissection due to complicated regulations on cadavers.”

A plastic surgeon said, “Fresh cadavers are expensive and in short supply in Korea compared to Southeast Asian countries,” adding, “So doctors help each other by sharing their medical skills.”

Under Korean law, dissection of human corpses are only allowed for professors, associate professors and full-time lecturers on anatomy, pathology and forensic medicine at medical, dental, and Oriental medical schools. In addition, dissection courses for students must be headed by such professors and lecturers.

Lee Hye-yeon, an anatomy professor at Yonsei University`s School of Medicine, said, “There are enough fresh cadavers but their use is under tight regulation,” adding, “Dissection is allowed only when an anatomy expert participates.”

In Korea, cadaver dissection is being carried out in medical classes and official academic seminars.

The popularity of overseas cadaver dissection courses among doctors is attributed to the public’s unfavorable perception of plastic surgeons, one expert said.

Han Seung-ho, an anatomy professor at the School of Medicine of Catholic University of Korea, said, “Due to growing awareness of the need for corpse donation, we have few problems in conducting cadaver practices and classes.”

“The medical community, however, is not pleased with for-profit use of human corpses donated for medical education.”