Review – Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Stiff - The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers Summary and ReviewTo the question “Is there life after death?” There are many possible answers, and almost all have to do with the accumulation of cultural beliefs in which we develop. But what is a fact is that when we die, our body – our body, to be exact is a piece of meat.

It’s not going anywhere, except in the case of zombies, that we all know, that they will go to eat our bowels or the bowel of the protagonist of the film or series we’re watching or reading.

However, it seems that the bodies have an exciting post-mortem life. At least that’s what Mary Roach tells us in his book “Cold cuts: the fascinating life of the corpses.”

With black humor but mostly with an insatiable curiosity, Roach takes us through studies, practical, science and myths of human bodies when the soul has left his journey to the afterlife.

Because at least “here” everything happens. Just imagine the title of the first chapter: “There is no sadder than a missed head thing,” a text entirely dedicated to practicing with human heads by surgeons.

“A human head has the volume and the approximate weight of a broiler chicken. I had never occurred this comparison, possibly because until now I had never seen a leader in a baking dish. But here I have, and not one but forty, forty heads face up on a tray that looks very much like a bowl of dog food.

The heads are for plastic surgery practices and two per surgeon. A plastic surgeon makes them an iota of grace dissect deadheads, but they appreciate the opportunity to explore and practice on the head of someone who will hardly wake up and look in the mirror after the operation. ”

The way leads to Roach to tell us about the incredible cadaverous activity as objects of study in the University Medicine and anatomy. And it seems that many people are interested in donating your body to science.

The atavistic notion that there is an “I” that is going to do something, even today still spinning. But, says Roach, this is nothing new:
“In the past, no one donated his body to science.”

The mass of the faithful believed in the literal resurrection of the flesh and dissection could ruin the possibility to enter into the kingdom of God. Who would open the gates of heaven to someone who hung the bowels, dripping blood and was destroying the carpet?

“From the sixteenth century to the approval of the Anatomy Act in 1836, the only legally available bodies for dissection in Britain were those of executed murderers.”

The exciting thing about this book is that it is an inexhaustible source of information for curious minds. Why death causes us rejection? What uses are they giving to the bodies?

Of course, you see on CSI series that always comes a scientist who determines “the time of death between X and X ‘. And that’s fine, but how do you know?

Very easy: the FBI has a field where left to decompose corpses outdoors and studying, day by day, the processes that are happening so that they can say, with some degree of certainty on what date or time is that the deceased he transformed precisely in dead.

Just imagine it: a meadow with corpses lying around, each with a small sign, counting the day was “planted.”

Mary Roach can discuss these and other issues carefully, going from anatomy to the science of accidents, the army, and the definition of death, cannibalism, but the final question is: Does the author will donate his remains to science?

Form a medical point of view, becomes remarkable

The author talks about how medical students have to “reify” the body to work with it, that is, forgetting that it was a person; and like them perhaps the class they fear the most when entering the faculty, it is precisely anatomy, where they usually have to dissect corpses.

I wonder if this practice is not harmful to students afterward, who are used to “reifying” their patients.

Talk about the history of corpses for the advancement of medicine. Like Ptolemy I in Egypt, he was the first ruler to permit to open a body so it could be studied.

In 1540, Andreas Vesalius was a great promoter of dissection and even wrote a book called De Humani Corporis Fabrica. In 1752, in England, a law was approved that allowed to dissect corpses of assassins. In Scotland, for the same years, the tuition of a medical school could be paid in cash or with bodies.

William Harvey (that doctor famous for discovering the circulatory system) dissected his sister and father because their alternatives were: stealing an unknown or, stop investigating. The Taliban even today, are forbidden by their faith to handle corpses or bones of any person, whether Muslim or not.

In another chapter describes how it is that the human body decomposes when death comes.

Or as in the United States, when the body is donated, it can be used as crash-dummies (placed as passengers in cars that collide), or to see what happens when they fall from x floors.

Or end up with the head in trays for roast chickens so that students of plastic surgery can practice in them and teach themselves to do liftings, rhinoplasties; as bodies to be dissected in medical schools.

Is a book that deals with the subject in an exciting way, contains many professional data, and at times is very funny. I enjoyed reading it, and I learned some interesting things.