"The cadaver keeps speaking to you even in death"

I wrote about my experience visiting a medical school anatomy lab a while ago, and I described how viewing human bodies in such intimate detail caused me to consider the spiritual and epistemological dimensions of human life. One Catholic medical school in Chicago also recognizes the spiritual dimension of dissection and reminds students of the sacrifice that once sentient beings offer to further their knowledge. From the Chicago Tribune:

Every year, first-year medical students grapple with gross anatomy, approaching their first human dissection with a mixture of anticipation, anxiety or sheer dread.

Advertisement

On Monday, 150 students at Loyola University Chicago's Stritch School of Medicine approached their task with reverence, reciting prayers and bowing their heads as a Roman Catholic priest offered a blessing over the 18 shrouded cadavers — silent teachers who would guide the aspiring physicians' careers.

"The cadaver keeps speaking to you even in death," said Michael Dauzvardis, director of the anatomy course. "You've got to listen to it. There are volumes of knowledge you can still learn from that person who made that ultimate gift."

During the ceremony, Salvation Army Maj. Debbie Sjogren, of Lombard, stepped up and addressed the students. Her late husband, Salvation Army Maj. Randall Sjogren, was likely under one of those sheets, she said, because he wanted to be one of the next generation's first patients.

"My husband's prayer was: 'I've always wanted my life to bring glory to God. Now I want my death to,'" Debbie Sjogren recounted. "He prayed for every medical student that learns from his body and every patient of theirs that heals from the knowledge they receive. 

Read the full article here

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
6 years 5 months ago
Science is a fascinating subjet and one of the more fascinating areas of science is life.  It is one of near proof positives of a creator we have and one of the most fascinating areas of life sciences is how we are made and how we are different and what leads to these differences.  


So the study of the human body is a study of the similarities of everyone, which is why one does a dissection knowing that each of us is made the same with the obvious but important differences of male and female.  But at the bottom of this, is that the future doctors will then spend their lives exploring the differences between us that causes an individual to see them.  Every time I look at a baby at each stage of development I wonder at the majesty of this process.  We are all the same and I remark at how kids today play the same games as kids did a 1000 years ago and struggle with the same pressures of freedom versus security as they mature. (before anyone says anthing about the allure of modern electronics which I understand completely, I just witnessed in the last 10 days an 8, 6 and 3 year old amusing themselves by playing make believe in the woods and having more fun than when they were at their IPads.)  But each is an individual and different from all their siblings and friends.


Quite a remarkable gift from our creator and the dissection of our descendants helps us to understand the gifts we have been given.
John Barbieri
6 years 5 months ago
All of us are - and want to be- special!
And, in that, we are all the same!
6 years 5 months ago
These medical students are fortunate to be at Loyola University Chicago and be reminded of the sacredness of the human body (although lifeless).  And to hear Michael Dauzvardis's very meaningful statement/counsel:  "The cadaver keeps speaking to you even in death.  You've got to listen to it. There are volumes of knowledge you can still learn from that person who made that ultimate gift."

The ceremonial blessing of the shrouded cadavers was most impressive to me
Once I wondered how those cadavers were handled.  This piece makes me feel consoled somehow.   Thank you for writing it. 
Chris Baumann
6 years 5 months ago
I am the Director of Ecumenical Student Ministry and Interfaith Ministry at Saint Francis University in Loretto, PA. 2 hours west of Pittsburgh.  It is a mid-size Liberal Arts and Medical Majors Roman Catholic university.

Every other year we hold a Cadaver service in the chapel.  Physical Therapy, Physician Assistant, and other majors, gather for a candlelight service.  We start in the chapel, light our candles and walk over to the cadaver lab for additional prayers.

In addition the students write comments and they are placed in the program literature.  Those comments of appreciation are wonderful - very moving.

Thank you for this article

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Pope Francis has appointed 16 members (eight men and eight women) to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
Gerard O’ConnellFebruary 17, 2018
This time the victims themselves are not having it. From the moment the first shots rang out, they captured the horror and broadcast it, forced the nation to confront it and talk about it.
Kevin ClarkeFebruary 16, 2018

Given the moment we are in, you might think a lot of shows on television would be trying to talk about current events or “America” in some way. But in point of fact, there aren’t that many. And even fewer are doing it well.

Jim McDermottFebruary 16, 2018
A conversation with Liel Leibovitz and Stephanie Butnick on faith, fasting and podcasting
Olga SeguraFebruary 16, 2018