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Use of cadavers to train surgeons: respect for donors should remain the guiding principle
  1. Anne Marie Slowther
  1. Division of Health Sciences, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Anne Marie Slowther, Division of Health Sciences, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK; a-m.slowther{at}

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Hannah James makes a persuasive case for the use of donated bodies and body parts in surgical training, enabling high fidelity training, improved competency of surgeons and reduced risk of harm to patients from trainees ‘learning on the job’.1 She also identifies some pertinent ethical questions that arise from this practice that should be considered by training organisations, regulatory authorities and the trainees themselves.

Many countries throughout the world have regulated programmes, governed by strict ethical principles, for donating bodies, usually to academic institutions for the purposes of medical education.2 In the UK the Human Tissue Authority sets out guiding principles for institutions licensed to handle human tissue including donation of bodies for anatomical examination, education and research; consent, dignity, quality, and honesty and openness.3 The Nuffield Council on Bioethics, in its 2011 report, Human Bodies: donation for medicine and research, identified a number of relevant ethical values including autonomy, altruism, justice, dignity, reciprocity, maximising welfare, and honesty and respect.4 While this report did not focus specifically on donation of human tissue for education and training the principles identified are equally relevant in this context. In terms of maximising welfare whole body donation for education and training provides benefit to many patients over a relatively short time frame …

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  • Contributors The author developed the idea for the paper in collaboration with HJ, author of the target article. The author had sole responsibility for drafting and editing the text.

  • Funding The author has not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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