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Company accused of ‘illegal’ dissection classes: doctors group

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : June 11, 2024 - 14:30

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A notification posted on the homepage of the company providing a dissection class shows that the class has been canceled. (Screen capture) A notification posted on the homepage of the company providing a dissection class shows that the class has been canceled. (Screen capture)

A South Korean doctors group said Tuesday it has filed a complaint with local police against a company for providing what it claimed were illegal cadaveric dissection classes for nonmedical personnel with a body donated to a local medical school.

The group Gonguimo, or Doctors' Association for Fair Society, filed the complaint with the Seocho Police Station in Seoul related to a local company's recent anatomy lessons conducted at the Catholic Institute for Applied Anatomy, an affiliate of the Catholic University of Korea's College of Medicine.

It was recently revealed that an anatomy lesson for those in physical training -- such as personal trainers and Pilates instructors -- was being conducted with an actual human corpse.

Promotional materials for the class show that it was charging 600,000 won ($430) for the class with a "hands-on cadaver," referring to lessons where one can “directly participate,” and 300,000 won for a "screen cadaver" with participation via videoconference.

"(The company) violated the Act on Dissection and Preservation of Corpses, which states in Article 17 that one must respect the dignity of the deceased when handling the corpse," the group said, accusing the company of not respecting the wishes of the deceased and the bereaved family who donated the body for the advancement of medicine.

The law states that dissection of corpses must be restricted to doctors and dentists who have substantial knowledge and experience, or for medical students under the direction of a professor, associate professor or assistant professor majoring in anatomy, pathology or medical jurisprudence.

The dissection class in question involved a CIAA doctor who would lead the dissection. The class was held twice last year, and was set to be held for the first time this year on June 23.

Following the initial reports, the class was canceled and the company on Monday released a statement apologizing to the bereaved family of the deceased who had provided the body.

An official from Catholic University told local daily Hankyoreh that the company approached the school with an idea, and the CIAA decided that it would be beneficial to the field of preventive medicine. Preventive medicine refers to the field of applying health care measures to prevent illness, which is possibly why the lesson was conducted for those assisting with physical activity.

Both the company and the school pointed out that the law does not have a clause limiting who gets to observe the dissection of a corpse.

While the company has stressed that people taking the classes were given observer roles in the dissection, the aforementioned doctors' group claimed that "hands-on" means one gets to directly dissect the body with a scalpel as well. The promotional image of the class mentions "direct participation" for the hands-on cadaver course, although it remained unclear if participants were actually involved in dissecting the body.