Battle of logic vs. emotion

Three weeks ago, I lost an earring.  It wasn’t just any earring, either – it was half of my favorite pair of earrings in the world.  There wasn’t anything too special about the pair – just a simple oval loop, but it went with everything, never stood out, and looked nice with my hair.  And while it was gone, I searched everywhere for another, similar pair – but no luck!  The style is just too simple – no one carries it.

A friend found the missing earring today.  It had been on a cadaver table.

Question:  Knowing that autoclaving said earring would sterilize and restore the pair and be totally scientifically legitimate – would you autoclave the earring and use it?  Or does wearing an earring found on a cadaver table hit an uncomfortable chord that reaches beyond science?

I’m pretty sure I know what I’m going to do, but I thought I’d ask anyway.  Curious.

22 thoughts on “Battle of logic vs. emotion

  1. I’m pretty germophobic but I would just clean the earring and keep wearing it. I got rid of the scrubs and shoes I wore for anatomy lab, but earrings aren’t very porous so I can’t think of any reason to be squeamish about wearing it again.

  2. i could never wear an earring that fell on a cadaver table, but i have an excessive and unreasonable aversion to anatomy lab. once in lab one of my earrings fell out, but fortuitously landed in my scrub pocket, so i still wear it (after sterilization of course). but on the table . . . meh. couldn’t do it. but you wouldn’t be judged if you did, indeed, autoclave your earring 🙂

  3. I wouldn’t autoclave it. Do you know that it’s a material that will stand up well to autoclaving? (In other words, what metal is it made of and are there gem stones in it?) Can you autoclave it by itself? Because if you’d have to put it in with other things, you need to consider that certain metals (ex: chrome and stainless steel, but I don’t know the complete list) shouldn’t be autoclaved together, or it can cause problems with the instruments. If they’re just dissection instruments, probably doesn’t matter. But if there are any surgical instruments in there (expensive!), I wouldn’t think it’s worth the risk of messing up people’s instruments.

    Personally, I’d soak it in disinfectant (alcohol or some such) and call it a day. The cadavers are all preserved in formalin, right? Shouldn’t be too much concern for infectious diseases at that point, I wouldn’t think.

    Just my 2 cents.

    • I’d be wary of bleach. I read somewhere that chlorine is really hard on jewelry, especially white gold (maybe platinum could stand up to it, but I don’t have any of that!). Something about creating defects in the metal. I never wear my engagement/wedding rings in the pool for that reason. (Maybe overkill, but I love my rings, so it’s not worth it to me.) 🙂

  4. @AnonVet Student and @Albinoblackbear:
    Interesting! I’m glad you guys responded, I’ll check with one of our lab attendings. He once told me “everything here is so sterile, you can literally eat off the table”, so I think he’ll probably agree with just soaking it in… something. Hmmm.

  5. All of these comments are so interesting! I had figured the majority of people would land on the side of “that’s a little icky… no, can’t do it”, because that’s what my friends here said when I posed the question. (@kate – I totally respect the anatomy lab aversion. 🙂 )

    I’ll check it out with the lab director, but it sounds like I can definitely feel justified in saving them. Cool.

  6. I’m with AnonVet, use some ethanol/disinfectant and it should be good to go. Your attending is right about the sterility, although I think our anatomy lab directors took it a little far when they literally ate in lab (leaning over the tanks and using the same bare hands that they used while dissecting because they found gloves annoying…I think the eating usually happened before the dissecting, but still).

    • That’s crazy! Wearing gloves is just good sense. Even in vet med with formalin fixed samples they emphasize wearing gloves because of the potential for zoonotic diseases. And of course, better safe than sorry.


  7. In my school, during anatomy exams, there would be “rest stations” with bowls of candy, which many people actually ate during the exam while waiting to rotate to the next body.

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