Quantifying Cadaver Use in Physician Assistant Anatomy Education

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Abstract

Purpose

To quantify the number of cadavers used in physician assistant (PA) anatomy education and to ascertain the origins of those cadavers.

Methods

An electronic survey was generated and distributed to all schools that had been accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant. Responses were reported using descriptive statistics.

Results

The survey had a 49% response rate. Among the responding programs, 79% reported working with 655 cadavers, with an average of one cadaver per 5.72 students. Programs reported that 21% receive cadavers from multiple sources. Of all programs using cadavers, 62% receive cadavers from medical schools, 23% from in-house anatomical gift programs, 19% from state anatomy boards, 9% from private organizations, and 8% from other sources. Anatomy educators reported that 55% know the origins of the cadavers in their programs, 18% do not, and 27% are uncertain. In categorizing cadavers at their programs, 56% were reported as registered donors, 4% as next-of-kin donations, 1% as unclaimed dead, 17% as uncertain origin, and 22% as unaccounted for by respondents.

Conclusions

Among educators who teach anatomy to PA students, 45% do not know or are uncertain of the origins of the cadavers in their programs. Of the reported 655 cadavers used in PA education, 289 were not categorized as registered donors. Facing the expansion of PA programs, educators need to be aware of cadavers' origins to ensure that all aspects of PA education are consistent with the ethics that the students are being taught. Those ethics include the need for informed consent for all cadavers involved in PA education.

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