What are advantages and disadvantages of using virtual reality simulations in health care education?

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Virtual reality programs have enormous potential in the education and training of medical students.  Long before the advent of virtual reality, animal rights activists had argued that computer simulations should be used in medical eduation rather than having students experiement on live animals -- even on animals that had been anesthetized.  The use of computer simulations did provide some opportunities in the training of medical students, but progams lacked the sophisitication necessary to adequately simulate the actual functioning of the human body.

The introduction of virtual reality will bring medical education closer to realizing the benefits of computer simulations.  They will enable students to observe better images of a functioning human anatomy, including models of how the cardiovascular, neurological, pulmonary, and other systems function and how they interact.  They will enable students to better simulate invasive surgical procedures than ever before.  In short, the use of virtual reality programs will have more real and tangible benefits than ever before.

Whether the use of virtual reality will fully replace the use of human cadavers and of live animals, however, is debatable.  While virtual reality brings medical education closer to being able to simulate the interactions of the human body, it is unlikely to be able to simulate the human brain, which remains beyond full human comprehension centuries after it was first explored.  In addition, there will likely continue to be a need for surgical procedures to be practiced on actual living tissue.  It is highly uncertain that that situation can ever change. 

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