The Silent Mentors of Tzu Chi

Rey-Sheng Her


This article tells how donors in Taiwan have contributed their cadavers to teach medical students how to respect and cherish the human body. They have signed a will to give up any progressive treatment and donate their bodies for students to learn surgery on them at the Medical School of Tzu Chi University (TCU). Before dissecting them, students are urged to visit the family of the donor and write the donor’s life story. This brings home to them that they are not just dissecting a cadaver but dealing with an altruistic and generous spirit. The donors become known as “silent mentors”. Students are requested to bow to the “silent mentor” each time they are about to begin dissection. When they have finished using a body the students sew it together again, stitching inch by inch, to reinstate its appearance; they then dress it, and participate in a memorial ceremony. They thus express their gratitude and say a proper good-bye. Such a programme, which combines medical knowledge with humanity, is a model for modern medical education; it also carries more profound meanings.

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