The Afterlife vs. the Afterdeath

I just finished reading a most remarkable book, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.

 

Being somewhat ghoulish by nature, once I heard about the existence of this book, I couldn’t wait to read what this hilariously funny author had discovered in her research about bodies donated for medical and other research.

I was amazed.

First, I was astonished to discover how researchers treat their cadavers with tremendous respect, even if they’re subjecting them to a t-bone car crash to find out what happens to the brain when it is rattled from a side impact (this research led to side-impact airbags, by the way). Medical students are even more reverent about the cadavers they are privileged to study. Some even name them. These students know that they would never be able to learn some of this stuff by watching a video, so every cadaver helps immeasurably to educate a new medical student.

The body of knowledge that a selfless donor adds to medicine, safety, forensics… it’s quite amazing. I had no idea. And fewer and fewer people are donating their remains to research.

My husband is not crazy about the idea of me donating my body to research, but I’m filling out the forms today, and he’ll have to get used to the idea. As a cancer survivor, I can’t donate organs like kidneys, heart, corneas, bone marrow, etc.  But if someone can learn something by using this tissue after I’m finished with it, before reducing it to ash, I think this is a good thing.

We spend a lot of time talking and thinking about where our souls or identites or personalities go after death, but we hardly give a thought to whether we waste our remains or put them to good use.

Please give it some thought.

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2 Comments

Filed under Cancer, college, Death, Dying

2 responses to “The Afterlife vs. the Afterdeath

  1. capncrusty

    I read this book about a year ago, and found it chock-full of data from cover to cover and even back to the spine, all of potential use to any writer who might approach death as more than a mere side-issue (know anyone like that?).

    As far as donating my carcass to science…well, I suppose it might make a good example of how NOT to treat your body.

  2. Great breakfast yesterday!

    I’ve been meaning to read this book for ages. Gave it to death-obsessed friend for Christmas years ago. The author has another book around the same theme, just in case you’re interested.

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