Academics love the expression 'body of knowledge' to refer to the stuff they know. For medical academics and researchers knowledge of the body is an important part of the body of knowledge they accumulate.
Yesterday I received the appointment letter for my pre-op assessment next January including a request that I allow the tissue they remove to be used for research or training purposes. For me this was a no-brainer - yes, of course they can have the tissue.
For me decision this operates at many levels.
From a purely selfish perspective I actively disliked the thought that part of me would simply be incinerated like so much hospital waste; yes I know that the tissue once finished with will be disposed of, but at least it will now serve a useful purpose first. My Protestant ethic of usefulness clearly runs deep!
From a more altruistic and reasoned perspective, saying 'yes' allows people to learn more about this disease and hopefully move closer to finding better means of early detection and/or a cure for future generations. I am truly grateful to the past generations who allowed themselves to be part of trials using various drugs and forms of surgery to achieve the treatment I am now receiving. As I swallow my anti-emetics I am mindful of the countless people who endured violent bouts of vomiting when the drugs were new; as I am advised of side effects I appreciate the people who underwent trials and risked the unknown; as I psyche myself up for surgery next year, I am grateful for all the advances that will make that a less scary experience than it might once have been.
If some good can out of this, if a future generation of pathologists can be trained to recognise this kind of cancer, if new research can be identified and undertaken leading to even better detection or treatment, if one day a cure can be found and the 'best' overall prognosis of an 80% chance of living at least 5 years one day be a distant memory, then that'd be great. To play a small part in the healing of future generations from the consequences of a broken and disordered world seems a good outcome whether I end up in the 80% or the 20% (and only time will tell on that one).
The body of knowledge keeps growing, bringing with it new knowledge of the body... and if the redesigned me can help with that, then so much the better!
Of course I respect the views of those who chose otherwise, for all manner of personal and religious reasons, but as we're all made of borrowed atoms and molecules anyway, and as our essence is so much more than the mere sum of our parts, for me it is the right decision to give an unreserved 'yes' when the question is asked of me next January.