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photo Still Life
The Humanity of Anatomy
By Thomas Cole, PhD
with ttweak

Each year, 16,000 medical students in the United States dissect cadavers as part of their introduction to medicine. Their emotional reactions to the experience are intense, sometimes traumatic, and may shape the way they will relate to their future patients. This unusual documentary probes the imaginative "shadow traffic" between the living and the dead. Crafted from interviews with 'gross anatomy' students, medical faculty, and a man who plans to donate his body to the medical school, it explores the unstated but powerful relationship between medical student dissectors and the cadavers which make it possible for them to learn about the human body.

Students share the fear, guilt, gratitude, and awe they feel during their dissection experience, while donor Bob Harvey talks about the life experiences that have influenced the way he feels about being a body donor, and offers wry advice to the medical students. Dr. Thomas Cole, the film's creator and a professor of medical humanities, discusses the empathy and compassion that can grow from the experience of dissection, while scenes from the movie, People Will Talk (starring Cary Grant as a professor of anatomy) offer an engaging historical perspective on public and professional attitudes. Still Life concludes with moving scenes from the medical students' annual voyage to scatter the ashes of unclaimed cadavers into the Gulf of Mexico.

This video will be provocative viewing for students in medicine, nursing, psychology, philosophy and religion. It offers both professional and public audiences a unique opportunity to probe the depths of their own humanity. Produced at the Institute for the Medical Humanities, University of Texas Medical Branch.

27 minutes
© 2001
Purchase $229 DVD
Order No. QA-345
ISBN (DVD) 1-57295-869-3

"An artful, illuminating view of a defining moment in the transition to a professional identity among medical students. Provides a rich basis for reflection and classroom discussion by anyone who wants to understand the dynamics of the practice of medicine. A superb teaching tool!" Robert A. Burt, Yale Law School

"Cole has created an interesting, unusual, and important documentary. Expertly intersperses interviews and imagery that bring together the beauty of science and the beauty of life and death into an impressive educational program." Library Journal

Awards & Conference Screenings
Silver Award, Health Sciences Communications Assn
DoubleTake Documentary Film Festival
Gerontological Society of America
Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival
DeadCenter Film Festival
Newport Beach Film Festival
Dallas Video Festival
Rochester International Film Festival

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Caring at the End of Life: Based on six case studies of seriously ill hospitalized patients, this moving film focuses on the key roles of nursing staff in improving patient-clinician communication in end-of-life care.

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Grave Words: Blends humor, music and insight in an entertaining primer for physicians and other healthcare providers who need to talk with patients about end-of-life decisions.


Awards & Screenings

Related Films

Study Guide

Web Resources

To rent or purchase this film, please visit the Icarus Films website