Naturally, such close contact with a corpse can lead to shyness or reluctance to explore, which Gillingwater says is perhaps the opposite of what is needed. “What we have to say to students is that these incredibly generous individuals wouldn’t be upset if you invaded their personal space; they’d be upset if you didn’t,” she says. “If you weren’t willing to compromise with them (not use their amazing gift), that would probably piss them off.”
Gillingwater adds: “What you need is [los estudiantes] see the giver’s gift for what it is: a gift that has essentially been given to them, so that they learn how things are in a safe space, in their own time… so that they can really deal with these things as who are advancing in their career.
A perspective of humanity
One piece in the exhibition perhaps symbolizes the change in attitude towards this vital component of medical training. “We’re not supposed to play favourites, but I love the Book of Remembrance,” says Sophie Goggins. Calligraphed by artist Annette Reed, the book “contains the names of all the people who since 2000 have donated their bodies to the University of Edinburgh’s donation programme”. He’s often on display in medical school for family members, so we’re very lucky to have him.”
The procedure of the anatomy offers more possibilities than the simple knowledge of our interior. Witnessing a dissection for his 2019 book The Body: A Guide for OccupantsShowing him a piece of peeled epidermis from a corpse, the attending professor told author Bill Bryson that the pigment in the millimeter layer of skin represents “all that is race” biologically, along with all the prejudices and acts bass that it has stimulated over the centuries.
“There are a lot of things in the world that are based on the perceived notion of similarities or differences,” says Tom Gillingwater. “However, when you get down to the skin, there are as many differences between white Caucasian individuals, for example, as there are between Caucasians and people from Africa or the Far East. And that diversity is beautiful.”
“None of us is the same. None of us looks like a textbook. But we are all human,” he adds. “And how lucky we are to have been born.”