Public autopsy - What do you think?

  1. a doctor in britain has attracted a lot of publicity by conducting a public autopsy. here is part of the text of an article that appeared in the toronto globe:

    london -- the scene was as appealing as it was appalling.
    in the centre of the room, the famous german doctor in a black fedora methodically sliced a human brain into sections. his assistant, meanwhile, walked around the room offering the 200 spectators a closer view of the patient's enlarged liver and split gall bladder. on a gurney in the centre of it all was the patient: silent, cold and cleft wide open. in a pair of tongs, the assistant held an extracted stone the size of a marble.

    "show it to me up close," a nearby woman said. the assistant reached out and accidentally squeezed the tongs, causing the dead man's gallstone to pop out, bounce off this reporter's shoulder and land on the floor.

    "ooh, a souvenir! get it!" the woman squealed, diving for the mineral deposit before her husband irritably yanked her away.
    these are the sort of people who pay to see a live autopsy.

    last night, in the chilly and cavernous boiler room of a warehouse in london's east end, professor gunther von hagens carried out britain's first public dissection of a human body in 170 years.

    about 200 people crammed the room, paying the equivalent of $30 each to see it live, and scores more watched on closed-circuit television. the spectacle was also taped for broadcast on television later last night.......
    others were not disturbed in the least. xarahash lavangia, 43, attended with his 15-year-old daughter, xerxian.

    "it was my idea to come, and no, it doesn't gross me out. i think it's fascinating," xerxian said.

    her father looked on proudly. "in a couple of months she has to decide what she wants to do with her career, either medical or engineering, so we came here to see if she is squeamish or not."

    apparently not.

    not everyone was impressed -- one way or the other.
    patricia smith, 24, a nurse, came to view the autopsy for a thrill but found herself bored.

    "it just doesn't look real to me, and i've seen dead bodies before, and this one looks like plastic. the element of shock isn't there.

    "to be honest, i'm disappointed it wasn't more ghoulish."

    typical nurse!! :chuckle

    so, what's your feeling on this? did this autopsy serve a useful purpose, or was it just showmanship to get publicity for the doctor?? was it disrespectful to the deceased, even with his informed consent?
    Last edit by Jay-Jay on Nov 26, '02
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  3. by   Stargazer
    My feeling is that if people were charged by the, uh, head, as it were; were "diving" for "souvenir" body parts, and were disappointed not to be shocked or grossed out, then yes, it was direspectful, and no, it did not serve a useful (i.e. teaching) purpose for the majority of people watching.

    How ridiculous. If you're truly interested, can't anyone who cares to arrange to observe an autopsy for free? Many teaching hospitals have small "theaters" (like the Brits' operating theatres) with bleachers set up for teaching cases, don't they?
  4. by   karenG
    em it wasnt that goulish- he was quite professional. think some of those comments were made up. It was broadcast on the TV- and I think it got it a big audience.

    the doc concerned also has an exhibition called body works- which is fascinating in a macarbe way- it is of bodies in different poses with the skin removed and muscles discected etc. if nothing else it shows how everything is connected!! It was a bit much for me though! again, that is very popular here and the length of the exhibition has been extended with long opening hours. just goes to show people are fascinated by all sorts of things!!

  5. by   2MagnoliaTrees
    Very disrespectful. I hope this person's family gave permission for this spectacle.
  6. by   emily_mom
    I sure as hell wouldn't want to be that body for all to see. Don't want anyone diving for my ovaries on public TV. I think it's very disrespectful to make money this way. I also feel it's kind of disturbing that this is entertainment to some.

    I used to work for a funeral home and saw many embalmings. It sure wasn't a public spectacle for all to see, esp the family. Did the family of this person watch it on TV? Did they pop popcorn and say, "Quick honey, there's Bob's spleen!"

    Eesh, what some people do for fun.

  7. by   semstr
    No the family didn't give permission, but the deceased gave his before he died. At least tha is what this Dr. said.
    He is in fact famous for his "body-silicon-shows" he developed a new way to embalm bodies, with silicon or something.
    that would be ok, but he does sick things to the bodies then, but there are quite a few people who made wills and give their bodies to him.
    I saw this exhibition 2 or 3 years ago in Vienna and it made me sick!
  8. by   Ortho_RN
    I don't see a problem with it.. If people aren't interested then they don't have to watch it...
  9. by   RN2B2005
    The idea of charging a fee is what bothers me most. Also, the good doctor doesn't seem to be doing this for educational purposes; he seems to be doing it purely for the exhibition (a black fedora?), and from what I read on the AP Newswire, he doesn't seem to have much respect for the dead or their families.

    One of the bodies he has on display in the travelling exhibit is that of a young woman and her 28-week-old foetus. I have difficulty believing that she ever wanted to be naked, embalmed, and divided into her many parts to be encased in glass after her death. Even if I could believe that this doctor has noble intentions, his methodology creeps me out. This guy ranks up there with the anti-abortion protesters who wave jars containing dead babies at protests, or with Jack Kevorkian's advocating cadaver-to-patient blood transfusions.

    This just reminds me too much of the mid-1800's, when bodies were dug up from fresh graves for public autopsy, and when prostitutes and vagrants were killed to provide those bodies if Nature wasn't taking her course fast enough.
  10. by   SmilingBluEyes
  11. by   Robin61970
    A traveling exhibit of bodies enclosed in glass?? That reeks of Ripleys or circus shows......not someone who is actually teaching or attempting to educate about an autopsy....this seems to have been done in very poor taste.....
  12. by   night owl
    I don't know many people who would want to actually view an autopsy except of course for maybe those in the medical field or the lay person with the WWF mentality equivelent to the Jerry Springer audience.
  13. by   Ortho_RN
    Hey Night Owl.. I like wrestling lol