Abstracts: Panel Session 7
Dr Jenna M Dittmar & Dr Piers D Mitchell
Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge
From cradle to grave via the dissection room: An osteological examination of children in anatomical education from the late 1700s to the early 1900s
The preponderance of men in the narrative of anatomical education during the long 19th century has skewed the historical perception of medical cadavers in favour of adult men, and stifled discussion about the less portrayed individuals, especially children. The aim of this research is to examine how elite medical men acquired, treated and disposed of the bodies of the youngest members of society from the late 1700s to the early 1900s. The historical literature and skeletal remains from archaeological contexts revealed that foetal and juvenile cadavers were able to be acquired from multiple locations including; charitable hospitals, from poor families following the death of a child, through body snatching from graveyards, or following infanticide by desperate, unmarried mothers. The analysis of the skeletal remains with tool marks consistent with dissection (n=339) uncovered from numerous sites across England revealed substantial variation in the way juvenile bodies were treated and utilised in anatomical education compared to the bodies of adults. The examination of these dissected individuals revealed that it was extremely rare for foetal and infant cadavers to undergo craniotomy. However, many infants and foetuses do show evidence for knife marks on the cranium indicating surgical removal of the scalp by anatomists. This suggested that individuals from the youngest age group were treated very differently to older individuals and were thus, thought about differently. The lack of destructive surgical tool marks on skeletal elements suggested that these bodies received preferential treatment and were often not used in student dissections but were preserved and retained in medical museums. This interdisciplinary research illustrates the essential and often overlooked role that the bodies of children had in anatomical education during the long 19th century.
The Aesthetic Limb: Prosthetics and Potential
Leeds College of Art
Prosthetics are an ever expanding field concerned mainly with functionality and supplementation, an attempt to return the amputee body to a state of ‘completion’ or normalcy. This conversation, although important in its own right, is undergoing an expansion evolving into one concerned with augmentation of not just functionality but aesthetic.
Using theories of assemblage this paper studies potential as a product of rhizomic networks between individuals and their relationships with technology. This forms the basis for a discussion on completion not just in traditional corporeal terms but also in the sense of aesthetic and emotional completion. By discussing the body and mind in tandem we begin to seek holistic modes of evolution and progress.
I argue that the corporeal form is never whole or complete, and in that lays the capacity for potential. With this we begin to see the amputee body as a corporeal form compromised but not necessarily broken or fractured. By contending the binaries and values we place on aesthetics and function, as well as the self and the other, we attempt to form new paradigms on the human body, health and when we consider the body complete.
This leads to the conclusion of the necessity of reviewing our outlook on the self and the other. That potential and evolution are the product of our connections to other individuals and technology. By fostering these connections and respecting individual desire and need we cannot just expand our understanding of the human condition but also create new potentials.
Forget me not: Encouraging medical students to view body donors as the people they once were
Faye Bennett, Dr David Roberts and Professor Trudie Roberts
University of Leeds
Aims: To explore how medical students can be encouraged to view body donors as the people they once were.
Background: Approaches to dissection vary greatly between medical schools. Some medical schools allow their students to learn about the lives of the donors in some depth. In contrast, other medical schools render the donors completely anonymous with no life history provided to the students. Studies examining to determine how medical students feel about the prospect of receiving more detailed donor information were considered.
Findings: A literature search using MEDLINE, PsychINFO and Web of Science yielded a total of 54 papers. There are numerous ways in which the personhood of body donors can be emphasised. Two different models used include; the donor as patient and the donor as teacher models. Both of these approaches have been suggested to have an impact on the way in which medical students view body donors. Informal lunch meetings which family members of the recently deceased attend, alongside medical students are also becoming increasingly popular. It should be noted that not all students’ welcome more in-depth donor information, as this could result in the dissection experience becoming more of an emotional burden. With regard to medical schools where donors remain anonymous, reports have indicated that students are enthusiastic to learn more about the lives of those who donate. The literature suggests that in general, donors are willing to provide such information.
Conclusions: There appears to be a trend towards encouraging medical students to view body donors as the people they were during life rather than as inanimate learning resources. By learning more about the lives of body donors, students may adopt a more professional persona, which they might carry forward in to their future careers within the healthcare profession.