The reliance on unclaimed cadavers for anatomical teaching by medical schools in Africa.


Gangata H, Ntaba P, Akol P, Louw G.

Anatomy Section, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom.

Anat Sci Educ. 2010 Jul-Aug;3(4):174-83.


The study of gross Anatomy through the use of cadaveric dissections in medical schools is an essential part of the comprehensive learning of human Anatomy, and unsurprisingly, 90% of the surveyed medical schools in Africa used cadaveric dissections. Donated cadavers now make up 80% of the total cadavers in North American medical schools and all the cadavers used for dissection in the United Kingdom are donated. Because the sources of cadavers used in Africa are not clearly known, a questionnaire to gather information on cadavers used at medical schools was designed from the relevant literature and was sent by electronic mail to 123 Anatomy lecturers in 23 African countries (48 medical schools). Fourteen lecturers from 14 medical schools in ten countries responded to the questionnaires. The results indicate that, in most countries, the cadavers are unclaimed bodies from the hospitals and prisons, and the bodies of dead bandits. In South Africa and Zimbabwe, the donations are mostly from the white community, and medical school in the Islamic country of Libya is importing cadavers from India. The lack of knowledge about body donation programes and firmly held cultural and religious burial traditions may explain the lack of bequests from black communities. The use of unclaimed bodies may disproportionally affect people who were homeless and poor, criminals, people with fewer social links, and social outcasts. The Anatomy lecturers felt that there should be broader national awareness programes for body donations, although the benefits of this could take decades to materialize.

Keywords: anatomical donor programs; medical ethics; unclaimed bodies;bequest program; gross anatomy; Africa