Lindsay Buckland: We must be grateful to body donors

IN MY job, I am sent all kinds of medical literature. Much of it is not for the faint-hearted.

While literature is always helpful, body donors are of significant value for training the next generation of doctors. Picture: David Moir

Indeed, while sitting on the train between Edinburgh and Glasgow once, I caused the other three people sharing my table to move after opening up a spread in a medical publication showing all sorts of nasty, pus-filled lumps and bumps.

Following this incident, I now carry a copy of a similar journal around with me in case I am having personal-space issues on trains that could be resolved with a glimpse of a bright red boil or diseased liver.

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The latest such publication to find its way to my desk is the catchily titled Tapeworms, lice and prions: A compendium of unpleasant infections. 
I eagerly await the follow-up on “pleasant infections”, but this will have to do for now.

Luckily for my travelling companions, this particular book is a bit light on gory pictures, though the orange wormy thing on the front cover does somewhat resemble a Doctor Who villain.

Inside this 600-page tome there are intriguing chapters on subjects such as “The pus-forming streptococcus” and “The Itch (Scabies)” and “Syphilis (The Pox)”.

Author David Grove provides what is described as a “fact-filled account” of infections and “fascinating stories” of those who discovered them.

This detailed examination of infectious disease is clearly a must-read for medical students and those working in the field of medicine, setting out as it does the full biological range of diseases and describing the features of each infection and its source of transmission.

This is, however, probably one to avoid if you are at all prone to hypochondria.

The book got me thinking about the training of new doctors and how it certainly is not something the squeamish would want to take on. But the training of medical students, and much medical research, would not be possible without the selfless acts of those who decide to donate their bodies to medical science.

In Scotland, donations are covered under the Anatomy Act 1984, which sets out the steps people should take if they want to make a donation after their death.

Medical schools keep bodies for up to three years, and after that a simple funeral is arranged.

While most of us prefer not to think about such things, death being a particular taboo in our society, it is because some people do donate that the next generation of doctors can be trained.

Books are good for learning, but would you want someone treating you who had just read about it in a book?