Monday, March 10, 2014

Society for Mutual Autopsy: Nineteenth Century solution to the cadaver shortage for anatomy studies

Michael Webster directs my attention to this post about The Society of Mutual Autopsy, a society formed to supply cadavers for more, and more scientific, autopsies.(At different times and places, cadavers have been in short supply: see these previous posts.)

Here's what Wikipedia has to say:
"The Society of Mutual Autopsy (or French: la Société d'autopsie mutuelle) was established on 19 October 1876 by members of the Society of Anthropology of Paris in Paris, France.

"Its purpose was to facilitate research on any links between personality, ability and brain morphology by creating a system whereby members' bodies, upon death, would be donated to the organization for study.
Its primary tool to organize these donations was a sort of living will which accomplished two main tasks. The first was to make clear the intention of the donor to have his or her body delivered to the organization upon death. The second was to present to the organization a description of the donor: the donor's personality, skills, habits, faults, etc. to allow for more complete research by the organization on the connection between these and brain morphology."

Apparently it was active from 1876 until World War I, and conducted quite a few autopsies.

I guess that willing your body to a scientific society is logistically a lot easier for your next of kin to carry out than is willing your organs to be donated to members of a club. As of this writing, the similarly constituted Lifesharers organization (about which I have posted here) has yet to make a single donation:

Q. How many LifeSharers members have died and donated organs?
A. We have not yet had a member die in circumstances that would have permitted recovery of his or her organs.

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