6. Leading nation in body donation
If someone asks since when Korea became prosperous, I¡¯d say 1988 when Seoul Olympics took place. I would say, ¡°From 1988, middle class of Korea started to have their own cars and enjoyed overseas trip. Japan became prosperous since 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and China from 2008 Beijing Olympics.¡± Furthermore, Korea gained confidence after the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup. As Korea became strong after overcoming the economic crisis of 1990s, the major conglomerates of Korea gained worldwide reputation. In short, Korea was a developing country until 1988 Seoul Olympics, and became a developed country since 2002 World Cup. In the 1990s, Korea was in the progress of becoming a developed country.
In a developing country, bodies without family or friends are dissected and in a developed country, donated bodies are dissected. In the 1990s, there were no bodies without family and there were no donated bodies for dissection. Ideal learning environment is where 1 cadaver is dissected per 4 to 8 students, but 1 cadaver was dissected per 20 to 50 students in the 1990s. Students did not get the chance to dissect the cadaver but were only allowed to observe.
There were many bodies without family back in the 1990s. Corpses without family were processed by public officials. Sending corpses to med schools for dissection was one of the ways to manage them. There were cases where family claimed the corpse later on and protested against the public officials. Soon, this way of managing unclaimed corpses was prohibited.
Med students are not simply learning anatomy as they dissect cadavers. Students are gaining medical knowledge with their hands and eyes, learning how to speak in an organized fashion, establishing friendship between colleagues, and developing humanity to value life. All of these are necessary to be a doctor. Therefore, without bodies to dissect, good doctors can¡¯t be raised, and this is a problem concerning the health of the society.
Many anatomy instructors put in effort to solve this problem of lack of cadaver. They wrote articles about why body donation is needed. Thanks to the effort, a famous individual donated his body as he passed away, and this news spread across the mass media. This occasion informed the general public that there is a whole body donation as well as organ donation. Additionally, in the 1990s, many bodies were cremated and not buried. If the body is going to be cremated why not do so after whole body donation? Med school cremated the dissected body, and passed on the remains to the family.
In Korea, everything changes fast. Ever since we became a developed country in the 21st century, there has been a sudden rise in the number of body donations. Now, med students are able to study anatomy in an ideal condition where there is 1 cadaver per 4 to 8 students. In fact, my med school is concerned that there are too many body donations. There are not enough fridges to take in all the body donations, so we only accept donations from people who made their testaments and registered at our school when they were alive. Now the world has become a place where body donation can¡¯t be done blindly.
Does anatomy instructor donate his body after his death? In the old times, I said he should. ¡°It does not make sense to not donate an anatomist¡¯s body when anatomists suggest others to donate their bodies. It¡¯s the same as a doctor treating baldness being bald. It¡¯s the same as a car dealer buying a car from a different company.¡± But today, I say an anatomist is not obligated to donate his or her body. ¡°If I donate my body, my colleagues have to fix, store, dissect, and cremate my body for a whole year. Why bug my colleagues?¡± Nobody should be forced to donate one¡¯s body. One should make decision by oneself after discussion with one¡¯s family and friends. Korea has become one of the leaders of body donation, so it is okay to relax a bit.
I have a question. How will Korea¡¯s economy and anatomy labs change after the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics? A better developed country? A true developed country?