Caring bodies : cadavers, technicians, and hidden labor in U.S. continuing medical education

Cruz, Stephanie. Caring bodies : cadavers, technicians, and hidden labor in U.S. continuing medical education. Diss. U of Washington. 2019.
Abstract: Human bodies are fundamental work tools in medical education. They are widely used, and indispensable, in the training of students, clinicians, and in biomedical research. However, contradictions abound in the use and exchange of human tissue. Human bodies are generally understood to carry moral worth and command respect, consideration, and care, but they are nonetheless transformed into commodities by institutional practices that depend on a steady supply of human tissue. Though rarely acknowledged, a system of exchange for bodies does exist. The deeper structures (as policies, history, and performance) of how or why human bodies are necessary, however, are rarely considered. By using a commodity chain analysis to examine cadaver use in continuing medical education (CME), this research explores multiple perspectives on, and practices involving, the use of cadavers in U.S. medical training and research institutions. Through ethnographic fieldwork in body donation organizations and CME training centers, this study explores how human bodies are exchanged and transformed, both materially and at the level of meaning. Particular attention is given to the perspectives and the daily work practices of those who prepare and care for cadavers and, in the process, transform the body. The research brings attention to tensions inherent to operations that are unknown but much relied upon by the public, by focusing on the relationship between care, commodification, and cadavers.
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