I am on page 150 of a 303 page book (including the Bibliography) called “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers” by Mary Roach. Now before y’all go, “OH, My GAWD! I knew something was wrong with her!”, which you would be correct in saying, let me say the book is funny, sometimes disturbing and sometimes gross but Mary tells stories of all sorts of research and uses for those who have donated their bodies to science after their death. It is actually very, very interesting. Gross but interesting. My book club, The Mandatory Fun Book Club (The MF’er’s for short), chose this book for the spooky month of Halloween and also chose the follow up “Spook” as a accompaniment. I haven’t gotten to that one yet but I’m getting there.
I had already decided to be an organ donor years before this book and now the idea of donating my entire body is being thought about but…
Why I’m writing a blog about this book is because Mary, the author, keeps mentioning how upset some people get or could get if or when they find out how their loved one’s body is being used even after that loved one has went to the trouble and time to legally donate their bodies to science. More specifically, they get upset when they find out what exactly is being done to the loved one’s body therefore, oftentimes, the researchers will be required legally to call and get permission to use the particular cadaver for their particular research. Yes, they have to get permission to use the body TWICE.
After reading about cadavers being shot at for Stopping Force Ammunition Research (police, military) and Body Armor Research (again- police, military), being carved up for Plastic Surgeon’s Practice and Facial Reconstruction Surgeries (everybody), left out to the elements and insects behind Universities for Human Decay Analysis (forensics) and used as crash test dummies for Car Safety and Airplane Crash Research (everybody), this is the conclusion I have came to: I Ain’t Using It Anyway.
If given the choice of being worm food, oven ash or letting somebody pop out my dead eyeball for dissection or practice for Ophthalmology, I’m going to go with the latter. Why? Because maybe, just maybe, their rooting around in my dead eyeball will save someone’s vision down the road. Maybe my astigmatism-afflicted, near-sighted, contacts-laden eyeballs will be the catalyst for some future, brilliant, burgeoning, eyeball doctor to have an eyeball break through. A near-sighted girl can dream, right?
The most politically incorrect way to use a cadaver for research, according to Mary, seems to be research which is done on the effect of bombs on human bodies. In Australia, ballistics and blast testing on cadavers are against the law, period. I plain out do not understand this. They donated themselves to help other people. Why would someone have a problem with them doing just that? Would you like your deployed military husband or wife to have boots that do not double as shrapnel when a bomb is detonated at foot level? Would you like something that provides protection instead? That’s where cadaver research comes in handy. Would I be willing to allow my corpse be used for Bomb Research? Yes. By all means, let’s go out with a bang.
What I do have a problem with, as does Mary, is the use of any of my body being processed and used, as she puts it, “cosmetically to plump up wrinkles and aggrandize penises. While I have no preconceived notions of the hereafter, I stand firm in my conviction that it should not take the form of someone else’s underpants.” Yes, they sometimes use Dead People Skin for cosmetic purposes. Remember that the next time you’re thinking of getting some work done.