Sunday, January 9, 2011

Compare and contrast

These two weird news stories surfaced a week apart last month:

Medical students at Rende Medical College in Taiwan undergo a lesson intended to give them an insight into death. They each write a will, dress in a funeral shroud, and climb into a coffin which is lowered beneath the floorboards (2nd image). Professor Qiu Daneng explained, "Although it's just 10 minutes, the effect is equal to real death." Student Xiao Lin concurred and said that it taught her that every second counts in life.

Medical students at the
Karolinska Institute in Sweden recently underwent a life lesson. When they began their first clinical autopsy, described as
an intense and trying experience, they learned that the cadaver they would be working on was the body of their former instructor. Although the name had been told to the class in advance, it did not register with the students until they read it on the corpse's toe tag. The tension rose and the group whispered among themselves, but nobody spoke up when the autopsy technician got to work. The incident did weigh on them afterward. "The first autopsy is very emotional and we autopsied someone we knew," said a student. "It was extremely unfortunate. This is the first time I have encountered something like this," said Birgitta Sundelin, the professor of the course. "It is really terrible, but it is part of education sometimes. Unfortunately, they must deal with it," said Tina Dalianis, the head of the department. The president of Sweden's Medical Students Association, however, was outraged by the school's response, a reaction echoed by a medical student at another university: "Very unfortunate. Students should not have to feel uneasy during their education. It is important that an autopsy truly be the educational opportunity that it should be. The question is how much these students learned from the situation."

A little too close for comfort?

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