Thursday, October 2, 2008

Public dissection

Dissection was an event open to the public in the 19th century and the corpse came from the gallows, the criminal having been sentenced to be “hanged and publicly dissected.” It was punishment and it was entertainment. It has been part of the education of doctors, who got front row seats at the anatomy theatre back then. Today's dissections have only a medical (or medico-legal) audience, but anatomist Gunther von Hagens has challenged the notion of whether doctors should have a privileged view. During my graduate studies, I focused on the [dead] body, specifically its preservation by plastination and its comparison to a book, which is to be opened and read. I plan to use this background to research and write a book that lays out the history and sorts out our ambivalent feelings about viewing dissection. I found out today that my publisher, McFarland & Co., is willing to publish such a book! And, as you see, it has such illustrative potential...

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