Accepted Paper:

Silent mentors: donation, education and bodies in Taiwan  


Rachel Douglas-Jones (IT University of Copenhagen)

Paper short abstract:

Explores the relationship between cadaver donation and medical education in a Buddhist hospital in Taiwan when the cadaver is socially known and this knowledge is made part of the ethical training of the student doctor.

Paper long abstract:

In the mid 1990s, teaching hospitals in Taiwan suffered a severe shortage of cadavers for the education of students in anatomy. When a woman from Hualien, a small town on the mountainous east coast of Taiwan, donated her body to the Buddhist Tzu Chi hospital so that it could be used to teach the students, her donation began a movement that to date has collected over 26,000 pledges. In this paper, I explore some of the reasons why people choose to donate their bodies for young medics to train on, and why they hesitate over the decision. Through comparison with the treatment of training-cadavers in other settings, such as the UK and USA, I explore Tzu Chi's 'hidden curriculum' which, through the Silent Mentors program, fosters radically different relationships between students and cadavers. The discussion leads me to ask questions about ideals in the formation of professional medical subjectivities, particularly the roles of empathy, distance and compassion.

Panel P20
New immortalities: anthropological reflections on the procurement, transformation and use of human cadaveric tissue