Myth vs. Reality: Why do we need dissection?

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Myth: The real feel

Reality: Specimens are often contorted and misshapen, with monochromatic tissue, which becomes even more pronounced after days or weeks in a lab. Specimens cannot resemble living or post-mortem organisms due to the cellular changes that occur during embalming. Dissection alternatives not only provide the necessary basic anatomy information that an unlabeled specimen cannot, they can also integrate advanced scientific concepts and various fields of study, which a specimen cannot.


Myth: Students spend too much time at the computer

Reality: According to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley, computer technology exposure in the classroom is invaluable to students. Its integration is key to their future career success, and students can master or enhance essential computer skills when using computer dissection programs.


Myth: Necessary for medical or veterinary school

Reality: Numerous physicians and veterinarians have testified in dissection choice hearings that middle and high school dissections were not necessary for their professional training. In medical school, non-human dissection is rare and many veterinary schools, in response to student objections, now provide ethically sourced cadavers for their dissection labs. In fact, over 96 percent of U.S. medical schools no longer use live animals in their medical student training and almost all veterinary schools allow alternatives for at least some or all of their courses involving invasive or terminal procedures on animals.


Myth: Alternatives cost too much

Reality: Alternatives, unlike specimens, are not one-time-use materials, do not require additional tools such as scalpels or dissections pans, and are often accompanied by supplemental manuals. According to a national cost comparison, in the long run, alternatives are less expensive.


Myth: Students don’t learn as well with alternatives

Reality: Comparative studies have shown time and again that alternatives to dissection—from computer programs to models which are more realistic than preserved “specimens”—are as educationally effective, and in most cases more so, than animal dissection. In April 2008, the NSTA revised its dissection position to acknowledge the educational value of non-animal learning methods as replacements for animal dissections, and to establish the principle of dissection choice for all classrooms.