There are some 500 persons in Malta and Gozo, almost all Maltese, who gave their consent that after they die, their corpse is given to the University of Malta. The voluntarily altruistic act permits medicine students to study the corpses.
An error by professionals in the surgery, medicine and pharmaceutical sciences sectors may be fatal or leave serious repercussions, and therefore students, doctors and surgeons need to train with precision when they operate.
A crucial factor are the donations of around 40 corpses that the University’s Anatomy department receives each year so that students and professionals may carry their research and strengthen their skills under the supervision of specialists.
The Anatomy department’s head, Jean Calleja Agius, said that the donation agreement has the consent of the person concerned while their wish is registered in a will. The person has also to specify if the body is donated in whole and if it is buried after the research is concluded.
Asked about concerns among prospective donors on the aim of the research, the department’s head said that the University adheres to strict ethical procedures so that no manipulations occur in the way corpses are used for research.
“So that there will be more information on people’s health and on certain disease that may affect people’s health and we honour this….it is literally a legal contract”, Prof. Calleja Agius said.
Medicine student Brad Grech said that training on corpses is crucial. “Although technology made advances, it is very important in this sector that we have something to learn on, that it is there in front of us and not on a computer or virtual reality”.
Sherif Sulemain, a technician at the anatomy lab, stated that he noticed significant progress during the past 20 years on the way research and analysis are carried out in the department.
“You see few laboratories or dissection halls in Europe similar to what we have here. We are giving the opportunity to Maltese medicine students, when many students in other places learn on internet or web based. Here we have a hands on experience, a unique experience”.
The first corpse donation to the University of Malta goes back to 1918. Currently, medicine student Malcolm Formosa is researching the history of donations and their evolution during the past 100 years. “We will have precise information and records on the origin of the corpses we study on”.
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