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ONE does not forget in a month or two the
scandalous details recently made public as to
the manner in which masters of workhouses
and petty undertakers may, by the disregard
of honesty, decency, and common human
feeling, increase the supply to the London
hospitals of subjects for dissection. The
time has not gone by for a discussion of this
subject; it never can go by until there shall
have been made those further changes in our
law which will not only secure the feelings
of the poor from outrage, but at the same time
will consult to the utmost degree possible or
right in England, the interests of a science
upon which all who live have to depend for
aid in some hour of affliction. It is not so
difficult as may at first sight appear to consult
alike the national feelings of humanity
and the interests of science upon the question
that arises out of the imperative necessity
that human anatomy should be studied
diligently by our surgeons and physicians.
As the law now stands, "that is received
with the left hand which is reached with
the right," and a straight intent makes a
wry deed. Nevertheless all praise is due to
the Anatomy Act, for though it has left open
a door for sordid and inhuman fraud, it shut
the door and barred it most effectually
against many crimes.

Let us show how the case stands by help
of a brief retrospect. Thirty years ago the
anatomist in this country was in a position
hardly better than that of the bold man who
first disdained to study the construction of
man's body from dogs, and who, stealing his
subjects from the gallows, kept them
concealed in his bed, while he dissected them in
spite of the denunciations of the Church
against impiety that hacked into the divine
image with a scalpel. It was impious to
dissect the dead for the well-being of society;
it was heroic to cut down the living images
and temples of the Deity for the pampering
of pride in an earthly king, and for the
spreading of wretchedness among his
subjects. Vesalius first boldly taught that the
man who would heal afflictions of the body,
must know the construction of the body
upon which he is to operate, and that the
dead may be made a blessing to the living
when they are made to reveal to surgeons
and physicians those exquisite secrets of the
wisdom of the Great Artificer which all flesh
holds contained within itself. To the glory
of God and to the well-being of man even
this earthly body, when the soul has passed
from it, may serve. Vesalius knew that, and
taught it to his brethren.

Thirty years ago, in England, it is hardly
exaggeration to say, that there no more
existed honest means of studying the Divine
handiwork in our own frame than in the
days of Vesalius, three hundred years ago.
The necessity of dissection was indeed
admitted, but the power to dissect, except by
encouragement of desecration, was denied.
Churchyards were robbed, sick chambers
were robbed; the high price that anatomists
were compelled to pay for means of study
tempted wretched men to commit murder.
But still it was necessary for all students of
surgery who desired an ample course of
study to repair to Paris. In those days the
calling of the resurrectionist was followed
as an independent business by men who
took pride in it, scorned the clumsiness of
amateurs, and even resented all intrusion on
the churchyards over which they had
established claims. The professional
resurrectionist chose for himself a well-filled city
graveyard, and then worked it, with a miner's
industry, in the most systematic manner.
The vast majority of the bodies taken in
this way were those of paupers, who, being
buried near the surface, were accessible, and
upon whose undistinguished graves a skilful
robbery could be made with little or no
chance of detection. The practice was to
remove carefully the soil at the head of the
grave and expose one end of the coffin, open
that, and with an instrument contrived for
the purpose, draw out the body by the head.
The coffin was then closed again, and the
grave also closed again, so neatly that no
sign of its desecration could be easily
perceived. The value to the resurrectionists of
each body so stolen was ten, twelve, and,
sometimes even fifteen pounds. Then, the
night scenes in a well-filled pauper graveyard
were horrible to think about. Rival
gangs of resurrectionists would meet
sometimes and fight. Vanquished plunderers,
envious of the rich mine worked by some rival

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