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Tomorrow Sweden will do first ever surgical cadaver course thanks to Swedish body donors

I left my home country 11 years ago, and moved to England. I have worked in medical devices for 20 years in all aspects, including research, development, prelaunch and surgical education. My job with London Medical Education Academy was a natural next step.

As Head of Research, I am involved in most aspects of the company, and one of my responsibilities is research in the area of cadaveric use in medical surgical education. It is with delight I discovered that my native Sweden is this week organising the FIRST EVER cadaveric training course using Swedish donors during Kirurgveckan (“Surgeon Week”).

Why is that so important?
For three reasons:
1. Respect for donors
2. Considerations to relatives and loved ones
3. Environmental impact

Let me expand:

1. Respect for donors means not shipping them back and forth across the world.
Imports of human cadaveric tissue is common, and we have had to do this a couple of times, but we would prefer not to have to. The fact that Sweden has swedish donors for the courses in Sweden is great news.

A body donation is a smart, forward-looking, generous and brave thing to do. It takes knowledge, insight and determination to donate, and we need many more donors to be able to more surgical training away from live patients to reduce learning curve related harm. Our respect and gratitude to donors is immense, and one way we can show our appreciation is by treating the body with as much respect and care as possible. We ensure a burial in accordance with the donors wishes is performed, and all aftercare is done with the utmost sensitivity.

2. Considerations to relatives and loved ones.
It is common for the biggest obstacle in a body donors decision is the strong (and understandable) emotions family and friends are experiencing, both for the potential pending death, but also for the vision of their loved one in a lab setting. We ensure with our ethical policy that our code of conduct is followed in the lab, but the discussions with ones closest about donating can be difficult. You can read more here about how we honour donors and here is information that may help relatives and families.
We are quite sure relatives and loved ones would prefer to know that remains are being cared for as per the donors wishes, preferably as close by as possible.

3. Environmental impact.
There are two aspects of this: one is of course the direct carbon footprint from any shipment across countries, but also the use of a body that can find a second purpose before it disappears. Every donor in our lab can give 52 different learning opportunities, and each and every training course impacts a surgeon and their future patients for the rest of their career.
This is truly something to appreciate, and we marvel every time we make the simple calculation on having trained 10 surgeons on a course: we have potentially impacted over 50 000 patients future outcomes.

Well done Sweden and Sahlgrenska Universitetssjukhuset, and let us know if we can help in any way. Best of luck during the rest of Kirurgveckan!

About Sahlgrenska University Hospital
Notable people:
Nils Kock; former chief of surgical staff; developer of the Kock pouch surgical procedure.
Mats Brännström; Professor of obstetrics and gynaecology; leader of the team behind the first successful uterus transplantation.
Katharina Sunnerhagen, Professor of rehabilitation medicine; created guidelines for stroke rehabilitation


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