Releasing a Corpse for Research Purposes

Forward Head Posture Fix

Forward Head Posture Fix

Get Instant Access

Over the eras, in accordance with political and religious precepts, precise restrictions, in many cases prohibitions, have been placed on scientific research on corpses.

In the Western world in particular, Christian and Jewish culture condemned autopsy by virtue of the belief that "the human body is sacred since it was created in God's image and likeness," and because it was "contrary to Christian dogma on the resurrection of the flesh" [2]. Consequently, records on anatomic practice are only available

Superficial Autopsy

Fig. 1.2 Superficial landmarks: lateral view

1 = zygomatic process of the temporal bone

2 = auriculotemporal nerve and superficial temporal pedicle

3 = caput mandibulae

4 = parotid duct

5 = external auditory canal

6 = angle of mandible

7 = facial pedicle

8 = transverse process of atlas

9 = inferior parotid pole

10 = apex of mastoid

11 = sternocleidomastoid muscle

12 = submandibular gland

13 = apex of greater cornu of hyoid bone

14 = carotid bifurcation

15 = laryngeal prominence

16 = cricoid cartilage

17 = emergence of spinal accessory nerve (peripheral branch)

18 = trapezius and entrance of spinal accessory nerve

(peripheral branch)

19 = inferior belly of omohyoid muscle

20 = external jugular vein

21 = clavicle

22 = sternocleidomastoid muscle (clavicular head)

23 = sternocleidomastoid muscle (sternal head)

1.2 Releasing a Corpse for Research Purposes

Fig. 1.3 Superficial landmarks: anterior view

1 = mental eminence

2 = inferior border of mandible

3 = facial pedicle

4 = submandibular gland

5 = hyoid bone

6 = angle of mandible

7 = sternocleidomastoid muscle

8 = external jugular vein

Fig. 1.3 Superficial landmarks: anterior view

1 = mental eminence

2 = inferior border of mandible

3 = facial pedicle

4 = submandibular gland

5 = hyoid bone

6 = angle of mandible

7 = sternocleidomastoid muscle

8 = external jugular vein

9 = laryngeal prominence

10 = cricoid

11 = isthmus of thyroid gland

12 = sternocleidomastoid muscle (sternal head)

13 = sternocleidomastoid muscle (clavicular head)

14 = inferior belly of omohyoid muscle

15 = anterior border of trapezius muscle

16 = clavicle from the 13th century onward. Scientists, anatomists, and fine arts students were thus forced either to bribe grave-diggers and cemetery guards in order to obtain the anatomic material they required, or to perform dissections on animals (Fig. 1.4).

A chronicler of the time wrote of the anatomist Jacques Dubois (1478-1555): "Having no manservant, I saw him carry alone the uterus and intestine of a goat, or the thigh or arm of a hanged man, on which to perform anatomic dissections, which produced such a stench that many of his students would have vomited, had they been able" [3]. Even the University of Padua, one of the most famous in Europe in the early sixteenth century, was allowed a quota of two corpses, one male and one female, on which to practice dissection, thanks to a specific privilege granted by the Church. However, the chronicles of the period speak of the secret conveyance of the bodies of hangman's victims through an underground river passage leading directly to the

Vesalius Dissection Theatre
Fig. 1.4 Sixteenth-century dissection instrumentation
Vesale Dissection

Anatomy Theatre of Palazzo del Bo, where Andreas Vesalius taught for 5 years (Figs. 1.5,1.6).

The sixteenth century was the century of the great anatomists, and Vesalius stands head and shoulders above them all. With the Renaissance, anatomy moved away from the religious and dogmatic doctrines that had dominated the Middle Ages, and was subordinate to the neutral observation of natural phenomena. Vesalius was therefore the successor of Galen, just as in physics Copernicus took over from Ptolemy. With Vesalius, anatomical science officially became an essential part of the experimental method. In teaching, "Vesalius's reform" meant the replacement of a method of teaching anatomy based on books and dogma with another, revolutionary method, based on the practice of direct and systematic dissection, and therefore more "faithful to anatomical reality." In 1543, Vesalius published the first great modern treatise on anatomy, De humani corporis fabrica, an educational text with very clear text and illustrations. He was helped by painters such as Jan Stephan van Calcar, a student of Titian, and the drawings were transferred into woodcuts by Valverde. The frontispiece of the Fabrica is in the Academy of Medicine in New York; it shows a lesson held by Vesalius in the Anatomy Theatre of Padua University (Fig. 1.7).

Anatomic dissection has always been considered a fundamental subject for the teaching of medicine. Nevertheless, in European degree courses in medicine and surgery, in recent decades there has been a drastic reduction in the hours, methods, and contents of the teaching of human anatomy, and in particular of the hours of practical lessons. However, there has recently been a renewed interest in the subject, and it is usually specialists in surgery who want to perfect their surgical techniques on cadavers, or learn new ones. For this reason there is a growing offer of courses in surgical anatomy on cadavers.

In Italy, the use of corpses for research purposes is considered a legitimate practice, albeit governed by specific state legislation; reference should be made in particular to the Consolidation Act on Higher Education Legislation (1933) and the Mortuary Police Regulations (1990).

First, the place of dissection is established, i.e., at a university institution. Theoretically, the law permits hospitals to request parts of corpses from university institutions, but, in practice, the excessive bureaucracy involved makes such requests prohibitive (suffice it to consider the transportation of corpses or parts of them).

Regarding the selection procedure for cadavers for teaching and research purposes, Italian legislation allows only the following: corpses admitted to forensic investigation (through the courts) but not requested by family members (excluding suicides), and corpses for whom

1.3 Instrumentarium 5

Fig. 1.6 Andreas Vesalius

transportation has not been paid by the respective family but has been provided free of charge by the local authorities.

Anyone during his or her lifetime can donate by a living will the entire body for teaching and research purposes. This is not, however, a customary practice in Italy. Indeed, in order to have several corpses simultaneously, the three editions of the Practical Course in Neck Dissection (1991, 1992, and 1994), edited by the ENT team of Vittorio Veneto, were carried out in Brussels, Belgium, where the decision to leave one's own body to medical science is a far more common practice. This probably derives from the fact that in other European countries and in the United States, the law has already approved and regulated this possibility for several years now.

Our hypothetical dissection class therefore takes place in a university institution of normal human anatomy or pathologic anatomy. A diagnosis has recently been formulated for the corpse before us; hence, at least 24 h have passed since time of death, and rigor mortis is resolving. We have already ascertained the absence of disease and previous surgical operations on the neck in

Fig. 1.7 Frontispiece of De humani corporis fabrica, 1543

the structures to be dissected. We are very fortunate if the person in question was fairly tall as this will greatly aid dissection.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Essentials of Human Physiology

Essentials of Human Physiology

This ebook provides an introductory explanation of the workings of the human body, with an effort to draw connections between the body systems and explain their interdependencies. A framework for the book is homeostasis and how the body maintains balance within each system. This is intended as a first introduction to physiology for a college-level course.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment