Age modulates attitudes to whole body donation among medical students

Gary F Perry, Raj R Ettarh
Anatomical Sciences Education 2009, 2 (4): 167-72
Managing a whole body donor program is necessary for facilitating a traditional dissection-based anatomy curriculum in medicine and health sciences. Factors which influence body donations to medical science can therefore affect dissection-based anatomy teaching. In order to determine whether age influences the attitudes of medical students to donations, this study surveyed, by Likert-type questionnaires, first-year graduate-entry medical students attending a dissection-based anatomy course. In contrast to attitudes among younger traditional-entry medical students, initial support for whole body donation by an unrelated stranger (83.8%), a family member (43.2%) or by the respondent (40.5%) did not decrease among graduate-entry medical students after exposure to dissection although there was a significant shift in strength of support for donation by stranger. This suggests that older medical students do not readily modify their pre-established attitudes to the idea of whole body donation after exposure and experience with dissection. Initial ambivalence among respondents to the idea of donation by family member was followed by opposition to this type of donation. These findings demonstrate that age modulates the influences on a priori attitudes to whole body donation that exposure to dissection causes in younger medical students.

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