06 May 2006

Bring out your dead

Anatomy was never Dr Grumble's favourite subject. Learning anatomy is a bit like committing a very complicated 3D road map to memory. He found it so awful that he very nearly gave up medicine after just a term. But if you are going to be a doctor anatomy is important, very important.

Has the work of Guenther von Hagens put donors off?

Bodies for dissection are now in short supply. Imperial College, better known for technology than medicine, has cancelled hands-on dissection for its first year medical students. In Oxford, when Dr Grumble trained, there were plenty of bodies. At one time they used cadavers from executions though it has to be said that this was long before Dr Grumble's time. One such unfortunate was 22 year old Ann Green who was hanged in the Cattle Yard on 14th December 1650 for the murder of her newborn baby. Her body was then carted off for dissection. As Thomas Willis and his colleagues were about to start work they noticed she was still breathing. They tickled her throat with a feather and she soon made a full recovery. Now you might think that they would have taken her back and done the job properly but Dr Grumble is happy to relate that she ended up being pardoned. Some say she went on to live well into old age which is a nice story but others say she died aged 31.

Thomas Willis who resuscitated Ann Green.

Things may be bad at Imperial College but they appear to be even worse in Australia. There students can't tell a heart from a liver. Some now think this is part of a dumbing down of training with too much focus on the touchy feely subjects that the politically correct insist on squeezing into an already overloaded curriculum. Dr Grumble could have told them that. But nobody listens to doctors.

Patients should be concerned. Dr Grumble is very concerned.


Ed said...

A person dying of old age in the mid 1600s at the age of 31 isn't particularly unusual.

Dr Grumble said...

It's a fair point, Ed, but whether 31 year olds would have been considered to have lived into old age in those days Dr Grumble really cannot say. Even in the times when most people died young there were a few who lived into what we might call old age. Even the bible gives our allotment as three score and ten.

Dr Grumble has lived in places 5 days mule trek from the nearest road where there was (and unfortunately probably still is) minimal modern medicine. Most of the people there were young. Most would have died in childhood. But there were a very few old people too.