Armed Forces Medical College: Medical Officers Trained To Make Dead Look Good
Dead, yet lifelike. The face could well appear to scowl at mourners had it not been the expert intervention by anatomists to suture the mouth with a needle and a ligature. From a slight widening of the lower lip that can alter the appearance of the cadaver?s face to using new fluids, city-based Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) has been introducing newer techniques to preserve the dead body for several years.
Embalming has become a necessity – specially with several counter insurgency operations at border areas. And so when the Armed Forces Medical College at Pune decided to teach young pathologists and medical officers in field areas they came out with practical hands on training about the existing and newer techniques to preserve the cadaver. More than 50 field officers have been trained, says Lt Col Rajan Bhatnagar, Head of the Department of Anatomy, AFMC, Maj General G Ravindranath, Deputy Commandant of AFMC, points out that embalming has increased markedly in the armed forces due to the increased awareness among the relatives and availability of transportation facility offered by the government to carry mortal remains of the service personnel.
FMC, which is among the two institutions in the city authorised to provide embalming certificates have for the first time in the country introduced an easier way to preserve the cadaver by using phenoxyethanol solution.
This is for the first time the solution is being used so that the bodies are preserved in the tanks near the embalming room at the anatomy department. ?It is easier on the hands and eyes,? said Lt Col Bhatnagar. This is a new fluid which is non-toxic and not irritating to the eyes and we are the first ones in the country to start using this solution for preserving the cadavers, he adds. At any given time there are 13-15 bodies in each tank. Why the solution is so important is that it does not have as many side effects as the main embalming liquid formaldehyde has. As far as formaldehyde is concerned, it is around for so long that it is automatically considered safe and its hazards are neglected. However high dose exposure produces dermatitis, bronchitis and may even lead to asthma, say anatomy readers at the department.
According to Lt Col Aseem Tandon and Lt Col Mohanlal, readers at the department, inspite of advances in teaching technology with computer, routine anatomy dissection still retains importance.
Since cadaveric dissection is an integral part of the medical curriculum and while medical colleges practise embalming for the long term preservation of cadavers it is now for the first time that AFMC has decided to use phenoxyethanol solution, they point out.
Modern embalming is not done with a single fixative, agrees Col Bhatnagar but introducing the new phenoxyethanol solution has only started making life easier for the medical students dissecting the body for honing their surgical skills.
So even as cosmetics are applied to make the body appear more lifelike and to create a ?memory picture? for the deceased?s friends and relatives, it is the procedure done prior to it that adds depth and dimension to a person?s features that were removed by lack of blood circulation.
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