University of Philippines Manila

UP Manila Backs Bill on Human Body Donations for Medical Education Amid Cadaver Shortage

The University of the Philippines Manila expressed support for a new bill authorizing the donation of human bodies for research and training purposes for the advancement of medical education in the country.

With the addition of more educational institutions offering medical courses, there is an increased need for body donors to deepen students’ understanding of human anatomy – a fundamental subject among aspiring doctors. But in the past years, there was a decline in the availability of cadavers or “silent mentors.”

The proposed Silent Teachers Act or HB 10416, introduced recently by Hon. Charisse Anne Hernandez of the Lone District of Calamba, Laguna seeks to facilitate and standardize procedures for the donation of human bodies and body parts for educational, scientific, and research purposes.

“Before the pandemic, only 6 students study one cadaver.  Unfortunately, after the pandemic, 20 students now share in studying anatomy per cadaver. As a result, we have to split our class into two sections, making it 10 students per cadaver. A ratio of 20:1 is just too many; some students don’t learn anything and can only look over their classmates’ shoulders,” said Dr. Rafael Bundoc, Chairperson of the Department of Anatomy at the UP Manila College of Medicine.

“The previous ratio of 6:1 really needs to be restored,” he emphasized.

With the passage of Republic Act (RA) 11509 or the Doktor Para sa Bayan Act in 2020, more medical students will be competing for the availability of silent teachers in anatomy classrooms.

“As a doctor, with the rapid advancement of technology, there are many tools you need to learn to use. Even as a specialist, the instruments used to treat patients constantly change, and you need to learn how to use them. To learn to use them safely, we have to practice on silent teachers,” Dr. Bundoc explained.

The scarcity of cadavers was never a problem since the establishment of the UP College of Medicine in 1905 until recently, the medicine professor added.

The Silent Teachers Act recognizes the need for physicians and specialists to return to anatomy laboratories to simulate procedures and refine their skills on “silent teachers” to ensure patient safety. In the proposed measure, Rep. Hernandez noted that other countries have addressed the shortage of silent teachers by enacting laws that facilitate an organized body donation registry system, which is both ethical and transparent. This is enhanced by government-led awareness campaigns explaining the philanthropic purpose of allowing the body to benefit medical education and improve the skills of their country’s healthcare professionals.

Text by: Jennifer F. Manongdo

Photo by: Dr. Rafael C. Bundoc

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