“Do you see dead people?” A day in a human cadaveric dissection lab

The short answer is: No, at London Medical Education Academy courses you don’t.


The lab is set up just like a normal british operating theatre, and the body is draped like it normally would be, usually with only the operating field visible. We wear gowns, shoe protectors and gloves, but usually not caps. Eye protective wear is a available, and mandatory for certain procedures.

As with all labs, sometimes tissue for medical education is being prepared and managed in other locations, and this may be the case in prep areas and storage areas. However, in our lecture theatres, no other tissue will be on display or stored during our courses.

Respect for donors

The bodies of donors are handled with respect and care, and will be moved and adjusted with as much consideration as if it was a live patient on the table. Often donors are helping with several different procedures in training courses. It is such a valuable resourse, and the donors wishes were to assist in medical training and education — the more we can honour that generous wish, the better. It is imperative that tissue remains as good as possible for as long as possible. Medical Education is hugely important, and it (or lack of it) impacts all of us.

Nobody has ever fainted in our lab

drape 7

We get that question a lot: “Do people pass out in the lab?” So far, we have never had anybody faint, perhaps for these two major reasons:

  1. It looks like a normal theatre most of the time.
  2. We are very understanding of those who need to take a minute and sit down and encourage a sensible approach if you’re feeling a bit weak.

It is perfectly understandable that someone who has never been around the deceased can find it unnerving. We consider that sensitivity to be a good thing. It shows that the person thinks this is important, it is not something done without consideration for the individual who made their generous donation. (Read here for how to prepare for the day.)

We appreciate that you care, and promise we will take extra good care of those of you who need a minute or two during the day.

In summary, please don’t hesistate to come to a course just because you feel nervous about what it will be like. Call us and ask any questions you want, and we will do our best to share our experiences.

Remember, the donors ALL knew what they wanted to do with their remains, so they are happy to be there. They would want you to be happy about their contribution too.


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