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Dissecting anatomy – historical, cultural and ethical perspectives on teaching and research

Cierre: 10 de enero 2010.

Número temático de Medicine Studies. International Journal for the History, Philosophy and Ethics of Medicine & Allied Sciences, 2.1 (2010).

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“A necessary inhumanity” is what Edinburgh anatomist William Hunter expected students to gain  from the dissection course they went through as a “rite of passage” at the beginning of their university careers. Learning human bodily structure by performing hands-on dissections in the anatomical theatre has become a fundamental element of modern medical education, almost everywhere on the globe. Only recently, concerns have been raised over the pedagogical adequacy of using cadavers in first-year training. “Living and Virtual Anatomy” has been proposed as one possible alternative approach to students’ first encounter with the human body.

Historically, opportunities for “doing” anatomy were restricted by various and varying prohibitions  and taboos. Apart from brief episodes in Antiquity, the interior of human bodies was not available for examination by physicians nor for the instruction of their pupils. When public dissections were first permitted, professors had prosectors demonstrate the accuracy of authoritative texts, long before empirically-based criticism of received opinions was encouraged. Ethical debates about the status of the dead human body have changed over time, between cries of desecration and calls for democratic knowledge, with different connotations in different cultures. This themed issue encourages papers dealing with questions such as the following:
  • How is the ontological status of the dead person affected by various forms of preservation and preparation, dissection and display?
  • What epistemological changes between “knowing” and “doing” anatomy are effected by different methods of teaching?
  • Is there a specific impact of different cultural environments on the generation, development, and reproduction of anatomical practices, and to what extent are these processes gendered?

Papers from a variety of disciplinary or interdisciplinary perspectives are invited.

For details of aims and scopes and formal aspects, including style sheet, etc., please consult the journal’s website
Manuscripts need to be submitted online by 10 January 2010 at Please, follow instructions provided on the
For any preliminary inquiries, contact one of the issue editors: Samantha Regan de Bere ; Alan Petersen ; Rainer Brömer .

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