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Cadaver Use - Position Statement

Human Anatomy & Physiology Society
Position Statement on Cadaver Use
(Adopted January 13, 2001, revised March 1, 2014)


It is the position of the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society that the use of cadavers is the preferred method for the study of human anatomy.

The Human Anatomy & Physiology Society (HAPS) is an international organization of science educators dedicated to the task of providing instruction of the highest quality in human anatomy and physiology in colleges, universities and related institutions.  A fundamental tenet of science is the ordered process of inquiry requiring careful and thoughtful observation by the investigator.  As subdivisions of biology, both anatomy and physiology share a long history of careful and detailed examination, exploration, and critical inquiry into the structure and function of the body.

Mindful of the constraints imposed by cadaver availability, limited facilities and underfunding, HAPS endorses the use of cadavers as consistent with the origins and nature of scientific inquiry and views the proper use of cadavers as an ideal laboratory experience in human anatomy and physiology.  While animal dissection may approach the ideal, cadavers provide opportunities that cannot be duplicated by animal dissection, supplemental media or anatomical models.

The mastery of human anatomical structures,functions and their relationships to one another are at the core of human anatomy and physiology.  The opportunity to observe, dissect and examine the complexity of the human body, the impact of disease on human structure, the effects of age and life style on anatomy, and structural variations related to development are unique attributes of a cadaver experience.  There is no better way to educate our students about human anatomy than through carefully and thoughtfully developed laboratory experiences using cadaver dissection and/or the exploration and manipulation of prosected cadavers.

Laboratory experiences should be based on constructivism and kinesthetic learning that instills a recognition and appreciation for the three-dimensional structure of the body, the interconnections between organs and organ systems, and the structural uniqueness of the human organism.  While anatomical models, interactive computer programs, and multimedia materials may enhance the laboratory experience, they should not be considered as equivalent alternatives or substitutes for a hands-on cadaver experience.

HAPS supports the use of cadavers for anatomical education  provided their use is in strict compliance with federal legislation, the guidelines of the National Institutes of Health, and the body donor program from which the cadavers were acquired, and that such use fulfills clearly defined learning objectives and meets expected student outcomes.

Science educators have a common respect and reverence for the human body and therefore have a responsibility to share this with their students.  They must effectively communicate the ethics and professionalism that accompany a respectful approach to the study of human anatomy and physiology.  HAPS contends that human anatomy and physiology educators should retain responsibility for making decisions regarding the educational uses of cadavers.  Furthermore, HAPS opposes any legislation and/or administrative policy that would erode the educator's role in decision-making.

(Last updated on 3-1-2014)