Kirurger i operationsrum
Photo: Getty images.

Surgeons need more bodies to practice on


At the University of Gothenburg, a lack of donated cadavers limits surgeons’ scope for honing their skills. Especially in trauma surgery and new, advanced operative techniques, there are not enough bodies for courses to be held.

Many Swedes are positively inclined toward organ donation, but few know that you can also donate your whole body to promote better medical education, research, and health care. In whole-body donation, you agree formally with a higher education institution that when you die, they can use your body in teaching medical students and in skills training for surgeons.

Need for cadavers remains high

Any resident of southwest Sweden can enter into an agreement on body donation with the University of Gothenburg.

“In recent years, there’s been an increase in whole-body donations, for which we’re very grateful, but the need for cadavers remains high. We’d like to see twice as many people sign whole-body donation agreements. It would enable us to offer skills training for significantly more surgeons,” says Magnus Braide, Professor of Anatomy at the University of Gothenburg and director of the Surgical Anatomical Training Center, which is run jointly by the University and local health care providers.

Training in trauma and technology

At the University of Gothenburg, cadavers are used mainly to give students on the Medical Programme an in-depth understanding of anatomical structures. When it comes to surgical skills training, priority is given to surgeons working at Sahlgrenska University Hospital, which also runs a high proportion of these courses. Where possible, cadavers are also used in courses provided by medical technology companies, where surgeons can learn to use modern operative techniques, such as robot-assisted surgery and CT (computer tomography) navigation surgery.

One area where donated cadavers are currently in short supply is trauma surgery.

“That’s a surgical specialty dealing with the consequences of external violence, such as injuries from falls, road accidents, stabbing, and shooting. The injuries are highly variable and there are relatively few patients. As a result, it may be difficult for trauma surgeons to maintain their skills,” Braide says.

Certain other operations may be technically difficult and here, too, there is a pronounced need for training in the form of courses.



  • Anyone can opt to sign an agreement and, irrespective of the cause of death, the donation can be implemented. If organs can be donated or the body needs to undergo a forensic Investigation, however, this takes priority.
  • Today, about 600 people have opted in by signing agreements whereby their bodies will be used for education and surgeons’ in-service training at the University of Gothenburg. At present, some 20 cadavers reach the University annually, and the ambition is to double this number if possible.
  • The University of Gothenburg accepts whole-body donations from Skåne, Halland, and Västra (West) Götaland. Residents of other Swedish counties should approach Karolinska Institute, Uppsala University, or Umeå University.
  •