Anyone watching Brothers and Sisters last Sunday saw Justin Walker getting ready to cut open a cadaver as part of his medical school training. Where did that cadaver come from? How did it get to a medical school?
A brief history of cadavers
Medical schools have used cadavers for training for more than 200 years. Over this period of time, the methods of acquiring and preserving them have changed. Criminals who were executed for their crimes were used as the first cadavers since Christians believed that the souls of dissected bodies could not go to heaven and few offered their bodies to science. As the number of criminals being executed decreased, it became commonplace to steal bodies from graves in order to keep the market supplied.
The tradition of dissecting criminals continued into the eighteenth and nineteenth century when anatomy schools became popular in England and Scotland. The only cadavers available were criminals’, and anatomists were portrayed as no better than an executioner.