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Bodies Die, Stupidity Lasts Forever

Children playing the game Operation

“Sorry doctors, no willing donors today, practice on this.”

In a bid to avoid becoming as one with my sofa (a terrifying thought considering the sofa once contained the ragged undergarments of a previous tenant) I took myself to the Museum of London to see the exhibition ‘Doctors, Dissection and Resurrection Men’. I enjoy going to exhibitions immensely as I get to admire pretty things (or hacked up skeletons in this case) and to take home some marvelous trivia titbits that can later be regurgitated at a pub quiz. This time however, I left with something else. I left with a sense of surprised disappointment in people (more so than normal).

During my glimpse into a world of London’s grave robbers and unsterile leg choppy-offing, I learned that over the years, the law concerning what happens to your mouldy mortal remains after you snuff it has been as controversial and changeable as Katie Price’s husbands. At one point in the 19th Century, it was the preserve of criminals to be chopped up by hungover medical students, then when it seemed that grave robbing and murder to meet the demands of the medical schools was about to become the most lucrative trade in Britain, the government decided, much to the horror of the singletons of the nation, that if your body remained unclaimed, that is, if no-one cared enough to want to pay for your funeral, the hospital got to turn you into a life-size game of Operation.

Several more changes later and thanks to a hospital hanging on to bits of dead babies, the law was revised again in 2004 and you, as a citizen of the Great British realm, must opt-in to have your corpse put to good use after you’re done pickling it with vodka and Camel Lights. There has been talk of yet another change, to the opt-out system, whereby anyone deciding that they don’t want to be carved up when they’ve turned toe up, must register this objection, and that everyone else is fair game. What shocked me and left me with a sense of disappointment from this exhibition was a video of interviews, where modern day real life actual eligible-to-vote people objected to the opt-out scheme and to donating their mortal remains for reasons that left me agog.

Here, for your pleasure and slack jawed amazement are some of my favourite arguments from the exhibition and from people I’ve met.

“I don’t want them using my eyes, I’ll need them to see.” – Yes, you have a valid point here. Because once you’re dead you’ll want to admire the inside of your coffin lid and enjoy the view from your funeral procession. Oh, no, hang on, you won’t because you’ll be dead!

“I don’t like the thought of people doing things to me after I’ve died.” – I can see how the thought of being violated might upset you, because when you come round and they tell you that they played with the inside of your colon, you’ll feel really awkward and won’t be able to forget about it for days. Hold on, can you actually come round from a post-mortem? Can dead people remember physical violations? No, because they’re dead!

“I want all my bits intact when I’m buried. I want to take them all with me.” – Listen sweetheart, I think we’ve all heard enough country songs to know that you can’t take it with you, no matter what “it” is. You, your personality/essence/soul/spirit/mixer are not your physical being – just ask someone with severe physical disabilities. Even the deeply religious have to admit that your “spirit” isn’t the same thing as the feeble mortal vessel which totes it about this Earthly plane. Anyway, cremation aside, I’m not sure how much of your corpse you get to keep after time, bacteria and worms have had a pop. Decomposition tends not to leave a set of fully functioning “bits” for all that long because they’re dead!

“They’ve done enough research, they know how the human body works so they don’t need to do more.” – I can see where you’re coming from with this one because yes, they’ve cured all medical conditions and all doctors have had a practice on a real body. Oh, apart from all the diseases that still haven’t been eradicated and apart from all the future doctors who are currently eating crayons at primary school. I don’t know about you, but if I get seriously ill, I’d like to know that the person rooting around inside my giblets has had a guided tour round someone else first. Apart from that, good point, well made (for a cretin).

“People might forget or not understand that they have to opt out.” – You’re so right, it really is complicated: Do you want to donate? Yes – good, you don’t need to do anything. Do you not care either way? Yes – good, you don’t need to do anything. Do you have especially strong feelings about wanting to deprive others of being able to benefit from your carcass when you’re done using it? Oh, you do? Fine, then as you’re so bothered about it, you’ll be sure to make certain that doesn’t happen by opting out.

In case you were wondering what difference opt-in versus opt-out looks like in terms of how many people “choose” to be organ donors under each scheme, let’s look at some lovely empirical data comparing two relatively similar nations. Germany has gone with the opt-in policy and has a 12% organ donation consent rate. Austria has gone down the opt-out route and has a whopping 99.98% organ donation consent rate. That’s a lot of forgetful Austrians.

“I don’t like the thought of someone else walking round with one of my organs inside them.” – Why don’t we make it a little more incentivised for you; if you opt out (or don’t opt in under current rules), you forfeit any rights to receiving donated human tissue. Sound fair? But I can totally see how you might think you’d mind saving someone’s life when you’re dead, because you’ll totally be aware of it. No, hang on, you won’t, because you’ll be dead!

I myself am a registered human tissue donor. I’m not that bothered about the heroic back pat my name may receive if someone’s life is saved by utilising one of my wobbly bits, I won’t be there to know about it and quite honestly, I’m not that altruistic or fond of strangers with a propensity for car crashes or liver failure. It’s just that I won’t need my bag of bones after I’m gone, so why not let other people do some possible good with them? Let someone else have a turn at getting old, making fantastically poor life choices and having barrels of fun along the way.

I’m not telling you that you should register as an organ donor or donate your body to science, that’s entirely your choice, but please for the love of all that is sane and logical, if you choose not to, at least have better arguments than those above and if they offer to save your life using one of my post-mortal coil-dropping-off jibbly bits, refuse. I will only haunt your stupidity from within and make your bowels irritable at every embarrassing moment imaginable. Oh, and don’t worry, no-one will want your brain.


About prettyfeetpoptoe

I live in London and have both my own legs so I am fortunate enough to get out and about on occasion. I form many views on the things that I see and do and love nothing better than a session of linguistic gymnastics in order to share these views.

23 responses »

  1. This is priceless, Miss PopToe! I truly envy you the shelf from whence you issue your unique opinions about current events. You know, it’s entirely possible that it could be the same shelf from which you could observe the goings-on after your’re cremated and consigned to a nice decorative jug for at least part of eternity.

  2. Excellent post! Such a dour topic but you have managed to make it funny,relevant and potentially able to change minds. Well done.

  3. No but I bet those people wouldn’t refuse a donation of jiggly bits if it meant a longer/better life – well said btw

  4. I feel this may be pressed! I’ve donated everything and my brain to the Cambridge brain bank. For what thats worth!! Besides, should I be worthy enough to enter the afterlife id like to be as light as possible.

  5. I was a little confused at first. I had Edgar Allan Poe-like thoughts that you were simply suggesting that people should be allowed to carve me into deli meat for whatever length of time seems fit, which we here in the States refer to as “donating your body to science.” I’m totally an organ donor. Take whatever you want, I don’t need it. But I feel you only have so much time to do so, and then you have to turn me over to my loved ones and let them burn me to ash.

    • I say use as much of me as you like, it would save my family the trip to the crematorium. Do crematoriums charge by weight? That would help boost donor numbers!

  6. You made my decision even stronger. Thank you Miss PFPT

  7. Definitely one of your best posts!

    There are few things so frustrating as the horrendous combination of stupidity, laziness and one’s need to tell everyone their opinion. Like you said, if for some reason you MUST have all your bits and pieces with you in the after life, then that’s what floats your boat. But to complain because you have to literally tick a box to opt-out? And that you think your opinion (which has no support whatsoever) is important enough to share with everyone else?

    Upon reflection, perhaps its best that we don’t use their bodies for future use. Darwin’s law and all that, I sure wouldn’t be a fan of getting a brain implant from them at least.

  8. I think the opt-out idea is excellent because it gets rid of the issue of forgetting, or never getting round to, putting yourself on the register if you want to. If you really give a shit about it you can opt out, and if you have anything decent about you, you can just stay on the register and die happy, and useful.

    • Exactly! The German/Austria example clearly shows how many people don’t register because they can’t be bothered, whereas only a very small percentage of the populace feel that they need to have eyeballs rotting in their sockets as they lie in the ground.

  9. I am with you! They can have all the organs and tissue they want when I die and then please burn the rest. Why oh WHY are we putting ourselves in ridiculous boxes and burying them? It’s a huge waste of money and resources. I am sure that land could be better used and for how fancy and expensive coffins are it seems almost tragic that we just bury them. I’ve heard the whole “Oh but it’s nice to visit the graves” well they are dead, in theory you can visit them any where if you believe in an afterlife. It’s all symbolic – make a shrine in your home and visit them there. Now I’m just getting ranty. I also like the idea of an air burial that some of the Buddhist monks do, where they take you to the top of a mountain and chop you up and the birds eat you – it’s very Lion-King-circle-of-life. I may just have to write to my MP & MLA about the German/Austrian model, it sounds a lot better.

    • Imagine if your family could actually visit you to pay their respects, as your kidney lives on in someone else’s child? That’s a bit sappy for me but I totally agree – what’s the point forking out for a cushion lined box when they’re only going to rot and melt into the upholstery?!

  10. missy amber

    Peoples be crazy.
    PFPT, apparently, for once, is not.
    Can I nominate you for Health Tsar?

  11. I have been a registered organ donor since I was 18 and was a regular blood donor until chronic illness forced me to stop 4 years ago.

    I toyed with the idea of being plastinated for a while, then decided I’d leave what was left of my corpse to my local teaching hospital.

    I’ve filled out the appropriate paperwork and mentioned it in my will. Copies of both are with the executor of my estate, so there won’t be any argument about it when I die. What’s left of me can go in with the medical waste, for all I care.

    I’m a big fan of the opt out system and have signed several petitions over the years to try and bring it into effect here in the UK. I don’t understand why anyone would object to it. Asking for permission to dissect a loved one at the point of death is both insensitive and traumatic from the viewpoint of relatives. Better that it’s taken as read, so doctors and relatives can avoid an awkward and upsetting conversation at a difficult time.

    If someone wants to hold on to their bits for religious reasons, that’s their choice, but if that’s the case, they definitely should refuse any form of transplant (including blood), otherwise they’re just big fat hypocrites. That’s my view, anyway.

    Organ donation is literally the gift of life. Only a monumentally selfish person would deny someone that. *climbs down from soap box*


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