The First Patient

I am not very sentimental when it comes to bodies, even my own. A dead body is just an empty vessel for me, easy to disregard before it’s even cool. Because I have a disease, it is unlikely that my organs would be very useful to anyone after my death, and because of that, I’m open to donating my body to science instead, if Sean felt comfortable with that. It’s not for everyone and that’s okay. But I’m curious about this stuff, and not overly squeamish, so one of my favourite books (on the topic, and just generally in the world) is Stiff: The Curious Lives Of Human Cadavers, by Mary Roach. Roach is as fascinated by this stuff as I am, and she’s got a wicked streak of dark humour that’s particularly evident in her footnotes.

The First Patient is a thorough documentary about medical students in their anatomy MV5BZDY0ZjQ0N2ItZGQyNS00NzZiLWI3MzctODFhYzkxNTJjNzU5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTU0NjUzNw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,666,1000_AL_class, wherein they dissect a human cadaver for the first time. We get to know a handful of students – who they are, how they got here, what inspired them. We get appreciate their differing cultural and religious backgrounds, and how that influences how they view science, medicine, human remains, life beyond death. Curiouser still, we get to know the cadavers in some way. Their human identities remain anonymous but their bodies become a tree of learning, a gift to the thousands of patients each of these future doctors will one day encounter.

Human dissection is no picnic, and years ago there was this sense, a coping mechanism perhaps, that medical students treated their cadavers cavalierly – adorning them with silly costumes, or leaving body parts behind in someone’s locker, as a prank. Today there is a better understanding of the emotional toll that this endeavour will take, even on students training to be doctors. There is dignity, bordering on reverence, for those who have made a donation of their bodies. There is a thoughtfulness that will move you, and gratitude that may influence you to consider your own donation.

For those of us with strong stomachs, The First Patient gives us a front-row seat to the dissection, without the smell.Β The Mayo Clinic School of Medicine opened its lab’s doors to filmmaker Chip Duncan, and he found the soul of medicine in the budding hearts and minds of first year students.

I don’t believe in heaven or hell but I do believe that this is life after death.

Advertisements

25 thoughts on “The First Patient

  1. Yeo Ye Hang

    I don’t………….do very well with these kinds of things. I always dreaded dissecting an animal in Bio class. Now watching them dissect a human? Uhhhh, I think I’ll pass.

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
  2. selizabryangmailcom

    People in medicine fascinate me, especially nurses and doctors. I could never have the responsibility of people’s lives weighing on my shoulders. Thankfully, not everyone’s a coward like me.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
  3. peggyatthemovies

    I’m like you in they probably won’t take my body..hahahaha seriously though – I’ve so many metal parts I’m almost 1/2 bionic! πŸ˜‰ But I’ve read a book on this once about ‘Body farms’ basically is what they are called. Scientists use the bodies in various ways – such as the way you describe or also leaving them out on the farm to see about decomposition, bugs etc.. While I’ve never wanted to be buried – as I do have a problem with bugs and I would just KNOW ..hahahaha cremation is for me as also agreed..heaven & hell are stories made up to try to make people behave… but I could totally let them do this to me and then when all is said and done – cremate and drop it over the ocean so I can travel to all those places I never got to go in real life! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Jay Post author

      Wowza, I think the most we did was a frog…probably we couldn’t afford the mammals!
      The students only unwrap whatever piece they’re working on, so it often doesn’t feel like a body.
      Most of the students seemed more affected by the hands than by the head!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  4. Liz A.

    Yeah, I won’t be able to see this one. I’m way squeamish. But it’s a fascinating topic. If you want something a bit more fictional, there is one movie about how they used to rob graves (and ended up resorting to murder) to obtain bodies for study in the 19th (?) Century. (I might be off by a century there.)

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  5. allthingsthriller

    I found this post to be brave and beautiful, Jay. Thanks for the recommendation, the courage and the humor.
    P.S.- My dad (he wasn’t religious like I am) donated his body to science. It was important to him. It was a magnanimous thing for him to do. It made me proud.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Jay Post author

      Wow, good for him. A lot of times it doesn’t happen because hospitals also need family consent/cooperation and when people are distraught and grieving, it’s extra hard. Good for you to sticking to his wishes. It’s amazing how many people he may have helped.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  6. EclecticMusicLover

    My first job out of high school was in the film library of a hospital radiology department. It was a teaching hospital, so we always had radiology interns circulating through. It was also the site of the county morgue, and our supervisor gave the opportunity to anyone in our office who might be interested to look in on an autopsy. I was the only non-medical employee in the department to take him up on the offer, and went along with the radiology students to watch for about an hour. It’s was a bit creepy, but also extremely fascinating.

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ 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 )

Connecting to %s