Notes from Down Under 3: Donated to Science

My stop this week is Auckland, New Zealand. I am lucky enough that the Documentary Edge Festival is in town while I’m around and that it features what seems to be a very interesting New Zealand documentary called “Donated to Science”. It aims to get people to understand what happens to a body when it is donated to a medical school. The documentary follows a group of individuals who donate their bodies to science, and explores the connection between medical students and the bodies they dissect.

As someone who has thought about — maybe, one day, many, many years from now —donating her body to science, I’m particularly curious about this film. Being unable to tell you more about it at this stage, I’ll leave you with the documentary’s official description and preview (below).

For those of you in New Zealand, the movie is showing in Auckland on the 18th, 25th and 26th of February and Wellington on the 11th and 19th of March. If you can’t make it to the Edge Festival, you can find out more about the topic by reading this longer piece, which includes an interview with the documentary director and a 10-minute preview.

New Zealand 2009 / 80min.
 Director/Producer: Paul Trotman.

Have you ever wondered what happens to a body once it is donated to medical school? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to take a body apart to see how it works? Now is your chance to find out.

Donated Science follows a group of people who donate their bodies to the University of Otago Medical School. Director Trotman interviewed them while they were still alive and the donors and students gave us permission to follow their amazing journey. The film picks up when the students meet the body for the first time, to when they make their first cut and when they say their final goodbyes.

What the students learn is far more than just anatomy. From the dead they learn life, they learn compassion and they learn humanity. After their two years of dissection is over, the students see the interviews with the people they have dissected. The effect is profound and gives the film an emotional climax you would be hard pressed to match in any feature film, a climax made even more powerful by the fact that it is real… for some there really is a life after death.


2 thoughts on “Notes from Down Under 3: Donated to Science

  1. Linda Lin

     Hehe, Kiwis! On a more serious note..I’d heard through the vine that the University of Sydney’s medical school had to get into the practice of fusing or covering the faces of cadavers. One year, a student had the misfortune of recognizing his Great Aunt as a cadaver they were going to dissect. It was a bad coincidence. 
    I don’t really hear of many med schools doing gross anatomy dissections as much. It’s an interesting topic thought.
    20 years ago in mainland China, students practiced dissections on executed prisoners. I’d been told that you can actually see the bullet holes in their foreheads..where’d they’d been shot. I’m not sure if it’s the same now. 
    You might be interested in this article by Science Mag, on how a remarkable med textbook was produced using executed Nazi political prisoners. 


  2. Barbara Ferreira

    That’s terrible! Both the Sydney’s medschool incident and the thing in China! Although I suppose it is better to learn how the human body works by actually looking at one than simply reading a textbook.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s