• organ donation;
  • cadaver dissection;
  • gross anatomy laboratory;
  • psychosocial impacts;
  • anatomy education;
  • altruism;
  • whole body donation

The psychosocial impact of human dissection on the lives of medical and health science students has been noted. To assess the impact of the dissection room experience on one's willingness to become a whole body and organ donor, the attitudes of 1,350 students and professionals from the medical, health, and non-health related disciplines to body and organ donation were studied. The participants were broken into categories according to degree of exposure to human dissection. Participants who were never exposed to the dissection experience showed more willingness to donate their bodies than those who were exposed. With the exception of the physiotherapy department, the students and professionals from the health science departments who were exposed to the dissection room but never engaged in dissection showed the most unwillingness to donate their bodies (P < 0.001). An unwillingness to donate oneself was noted as one of the negative impacts associated with exposure to the dissection room. Willingness to donate an organ correlated positively with the level of exposure to the dissection room (P < 0.001). Most of the reasons for unwillingness were traceable to negative perceptions of the dissection room as a result of poor and disrespectful management of the human cadavers. Anat Sci Educ. 7: 56–63. © 2013 American Association of Anatomists.