Film clips of Cary Grant as the consummate anatomy professor in 0100 (see this database) are interspersed with comments from contemporary gross anatomy students, two medical school faculty intimately connected with dissection and the body donation tradition, and a live body donor. In what ways "yes" and "no" could both be proper responses to the statement, "A cadaver in the classroom is not a dead human being" is the key premise, beautifully presented in the cut-aways, organization, and editing of this piece.

The structure of the film is an as-if dialogue between young dissectors and soon-to-be cadaver (the body donor). Interviews heighten and explore the relationship between the living and the dead--and not just medical students and body donors. The medical students do not speak directly with the future donor, though we see him shaking hands with them, visiting (and speculating on) the spot where his remains will eventually be deposited. The video concludes with a moving annual ritual, the disposition of body donors' cremated remains at sea.


Thomas Cole, creator and executive producer of this video, is professor at the Institute for The Medical Humanities at University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Particularly insightful are his commentaries on the much debated phrase, "detached concern." He explains that going into relationship with death to such depths--something all those in hospice and palliative medicine know well--paradoxically makes one more alive, vitally human, and compassionate.

An excellent companion piece would be Meryl Levin's Anatomy of Anatomy in Images and Words (see this database), in which photographs and accompanying quotations from 11 medical students' journals probe the depths of feeling evoked by dissecting a dead, formerly live human being. (Levin's and Cole's projects were both funded by Project On Death in America to illuminate the culture of death and dying in America.) Another source to cull for subtle variations on the themes of guilt, privilege, personhood, defenses, and coping strategies is Facing Death: Images, Insights, and Interventions (see this database).

Primary Source

Fanlight Productions, Boston, Mass. (800-937-4113)