“Limbs Not Yet Rigid” – A History of Dissecting the Living

Several years ago, the news reported a story that could have come straight from the script of a horror movie. In October 2009, Colleen S. Burns was admitted to St Joseph’s Hospital Center in New York for a drug overdose. A short time later, a team of doctors pronounced the 39-year-old woman dead. Her family was notified and Burns’s body was prepped for organ donation.

The only problem was: Burns wasn’t actually dead.

The Battle over Bodies: A History of Criminal Dissection

On 29 July 1831, John Amy Bird Bell was found guilty of murdering a young boy for the sake of a few coins. At his trial, Bell expressed no emotion when he was sentenced to death. He did, however, break down when he was informed that his body would be given over to the surgeons […]

Holding a Book Bound in Human Skin

It is hot and muggy in the upstairs gallery of Surgeons’ Hall in Edinburgh. I walk past shelves upon shelves of jars that contain 18th-century specimens suspended in liquid: an amputated arm here, a cancerous bowel there. Compared with the lower level of the museum, it is eerily quiet up here. This section is not […]