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Anatomy Act

body, person, bodies, anatomical, death, dissection, removed, certificate and examination

ANATOMY ACT. Before the pass ing of 2 & 3 Will. IV. c. 75, on the 1st of August, 1832, the medical profession was placed in a situation at once anoma lous and discreditable to the intelligence of the country. The law rendered it illegal for the medical practitioner or of anatomy to possess any human body for the purposes of dissection, save that of murderers executed pursuant to the sentence of a court of justice, whilst it made him liable to punishment for ignorance of his profession ; and while the charters of the medical colleges en forced the duty of teaching anatomy by dissection, the law rendered such a coarse impracticable. But as the interests of society require anatomy to be taught, the laws were violated, and a new class of offenders and new crimes sprung up as a consequence of legislation being incon sistent with social wants. By making anatomical dissection a penalty for crime, the strong prejudices which existed re specting dissection were magnified tenfold. This custom existed in England for about three centuries, having commenced early in the sixteenth century, when it was ordered that the bodies of four criminals should be assigned annually to the corpora tion of barber-surgeons. The 2 & 3 Will. IV. c. 75, repealed s. 4, 9 Geo. IV. c. 31, which empowered the court, when it saw fit, to direct the body of a person con victed of murder to be dissected after execution. Bodies are now obtained for anatomical purposes under the following regulations enacted in 2 & 3 Will. IV. c.

which is entitled 'Au act for regulating Schools of Anatomy.' The preamble of this act recites that the legal supply of human bodies for anatomical examination was insufficient, and that in order further to supply human bodies for such purpose various crimes were committed, and lately murder, for the sole object of selling the bodies of the persons so murdered. The act then empowers the principal Secre tary of State, and the Chief Secretary for Ireland, to grant a licence to practise anatomy to any member or fellow of any college of physicians or surgeons, or to any graduate or licentiate in medicine, or to any person lawfully qualified to prac tise medicine, or to any professor or teacher of anatomy, medicine, or surgery ; or to any student attending any school of anatomy, on application countersigned by two justices of the place where the applicant resides, certifying that to their knowledge or belief such person is about to carry on the practice of anatomy. (s. 1.) Notice is to be given of the place where it is intended to examine bodies anato mically, one week at least before the first receipt or possession of a body. The Secretary of State appoints inspectors of places where anatomical examinations are carried on, and they make a quar terly return of every deceased person's body removed to each place in their district where anatomy is practised, distinguish ing the sex, and the name and age. Ex

ecutors and others (not being undertakers, &c.) may permit the body of a deceased person, lawfully in their possession, to undergo anatomical examination, unless, to the knowledge of such executors or others, such person shall have expressed his desire, either in writing or verbally during the illness whereof he died, that his body might not undergo such exami nation ; and unless the surviving husband or wife, or any known relative of the de ceased person shall require the body to be interred without. Although a person may have directed his body after death to be examined anatomically, yet if any sur viving relative objects, the body is to be interred without undergoing such exami nation. (s. 8.) When a body may be lawfully removed for anatomical exami nation, such removal is not to take place until forty-eight hours after death, nor until twenty-four hours' notice after death to the anatomical inspector of the district of the intended removal, such notice to be accompanied by a certificate of the cause of death, signed by the physician, surgeon, or apothecary who attended during the illness whereof the deceased person died ; or if not so attended, the body is to be viewed by some physician, surgeon, or apothecary after death, and who shall not be concerned iu examining the body after removal. Their certifi cate is to be delivered with the body to the party receiving the same for exa mination, who within twenty-four hours must transmit the certificate to the inspec tor of anatomy for the district, accom panied by a return stating at what day and hour and from whom the body was received, the date and place of death, the sex, and (as far as known) the name, age, and last abode of such person ; and these particulars, with a copy of the certificate, are also to be entered in a book, which is to be produced whenever the inspector requires. The body on being removed is to be placed in a decent coffinor shell and be removed therein ; and the party re ceiving it is to provide for its interment after examination in consecrated ground, or in some public burial-ground of that religious persuasion to which the person whose body was removed belonged ; and a certificate of the interment is to be transmitted to the inspector of anatomy for the district within six weeks after the body was received for examination. Offences against the act may be punished with imprisonment for not less than three months, or a fine of not more than 50/.

The supply, under this act, of the bodies of persons who die friendless in poor-houses and hospitals and elsewhere, is said to be sufficient for the present wants of the teachers of anatomy. The enormities which were formerly practised by " resurrection-men " and " burkers " have ceased. The number of bodies an nually supplied in London for the pur poses of dissection amounts to 600.