With self-financed medical colleges short of cadavers, there is just about one for a batch of 30

For students of a number of private medical colleges, dissecting a cadaver — considered an essential part of training in anatomy — is something they rarely get to do.

Unlike their counterparts in government medical colleges all of whom get to dissect a cadaver in their first year, these students’ access to cadavers is restricted, with just one allotted for each batch of 30.

Officials said this was because unlike government colleges, who have access to unclaimed bodies from mortuaries, private colleges do not receive many cadavers. They have to rely on people who voluntarily pledge their bodies for medical research after death. The shortage has become so problematic that some private colleges are making arrangements to get cadavers from neighbouring states.

Fundamental subject

Anatomy is fundamental to MBBS education, said a student of a private medical college, and learning to dissect cadavers goes a long way in helping students understand how the body functions. But due to the shortage of cadavers, they rarely got a chance to dissect, he said.

“Each year has 150 students. We are divided into batches of 30 students each. There is one cadaver per batch and we get to dissect the cadaver in turns. It is extremely difficult to get a good chance to dissect, as at most, each student can only work on a small section of the cadaver. Mostly, the teachers just demonstrate a dissection to the entire class,” said M. Kumar, a private college student.

When tutors or assistant professors dissect a cadaver, getting a view of the procedure is difficult, as a number of students surround the dissection table, he added.

A professor of anatomy at a private college said that at some colleges, there were just five to six cadavers for the entire first year, when the actual requirement is at least 10 to 12 cadavers for every batch of 150 students.

Difficult to procure

“In our first year, we have anatomy dissection classes for at least 3 or 4 hours in the morning. It is very difficult for colleges to procure cadavers and only rarely do students get to dissect them. Some teachers explain the dissection procedure to us, while others just leave it out all together,” said a student of another private college.

S. Madhavan, a third-year student recalled that he and his classmates were allowed to dissect a cadaver just four or five times in their first year and they were given less than 10 minutes each time.

“I only got to cut open the skin on the cadaver. If this is how students are taught, how will they be able to perform surgeries as doctors in the future? Previously, students were given the opportunity to dissect a cadaver from head to foot,” he said.

He also claimed that some private medical colleges brought in additional cadavers during Medical Council of India inspections, so that they were not pulled up by the regulatory body.

A student of Madras Medical College said they had enough cadavers and had each been allowed to dissect a full cadaver.

“This is a fundamental subject and cannot be learned through watching videos,” he said.

According to older students, some years ago, students would be asked to read a manual and dissect a cadaver on their own the next day. But this practice was dying slowly, they said.

A former official of the Directorate of Medical Education said that a few years ago the government had come up with an order allowing private medical colleges to take unclaimed bodies from mortuaries on payment of Rs. 25,000. But this offer has had only few takers, he said.

Names of students have been changed