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plate the possible errors of professional men, who possess neither zeal, nor industry, nor judgment, nor, thanks to the law of the land, proper cpportunities of preparation ! We have the most undoubted authority for stating, that plague and earthquake, the tempest, and the sword, have not sent out of life, untimely, more human beings, than an ignorance of anatomy and the analogous sciences, in persons who pretended to a knowledge of them. One of the darkest chapters of the domestic history of this country, even at this hour, would be a catalogue of the errors, often fatal errors, of incompetent surgeons. A professional friend, to whom we have sometimes in the course of our labours to refer, assures us, that not many weeks ago, he saw the dead body of a man, in whose arm the artery had been accidentally wounded. A surgeon was called in, and, as must have been expected from the extent of his anatomical education, he placed a ligature, not on the artery, but upon the nerve which accompanied it, thus adding excruciating agony to the still unrestrained hemorrhage, from the united influence of which the unfortunate patient only obtained relief in death. From the same authority we learn, that still later, two persons presented themselves at one of the large hospitals of London, with the artery in one of the arms of each in a state of aneurism, consequent on those vessels being, through abominable ignorance, punctured in the very common operation of venesection. May we then, with all humility inquire, if dissection be really quite so palpable a calamity, as some of those mistakes of which the want of it is the sole and exclusive origin? Would not the two men to whom we have just alluded, have willingly surrendered the bodies of all their kin to the dissecting-knife, if they believed that such a measure would have been the means of preventing the terrible sufferings, and the perils to which they were exposed ?
If the want of anatomical knowledge has been the source of so many evils to mankind, the possession of it could, by many illustrations, be shown to be one of the greatest blessings which a nation could desire. It is from the dead body alone that the oculist derives that information and that skill, which places at his command the remedies by which vision may be restored, or the calamity of blindness averted. Of all the hard conditions on which the tenure of life is granted to man, the privation of sight is that which most entitles him to our deepest commiseration. The mournful lament of our great poet for the loss of his sight, arrests all our sympathies in an instant, not so much by the beauty of his numbers, as the truth of feeling with which he describes his affliction.'
" Thus with the
Or flocks, or herds, or human face divive :
the visual ray,
But cloud instead, and ever-during dark
Cut off.” The power with which surgery is now luckily invested over diseases of the eye, is but of very recent acquisition. The couching of a cataract was, at the close of the last century, an operation of such extreme rarity, as to become a subject of national curiosity. A very graphic description of the results of this operation is given in Goldsmith's Animated Nature. At present, the complete restoration of vision is a performance, that takes its station with the most ordinary events of daily occurrence in our opthalmic infirmaries and it is entirely owing to the want of anatomical knowledge, that, almost up to the hour in which we write, we could not dispense with the skill and knowledge of German oculists. Who then, is it, with a heart that can throb in spmpathy with his kind, will seek to embarrass the progress of that science, which can thus turn the dreariest lot into one of comparative happiness, which can restore the solitary and cheerless to the bosom of society, and almost literally realize the miracles, which the poet could only attribute to a far superior power. “He from thick films shall
purge And on the sightless eye-ball pour the day.' Turning from the eye to the sense of hearing, in what terms shall we speak of that triumphant power which can, almost at a moment, confer the inestimable blessings of the faculties of hearing and of speech! We cannot here avoid referring to a case that very pointedly illustrates the benefits of which anatomy may be the occasional cause. A gentleman affected with deafness, consulted Şir Astley Cooper. The only circumstance to which he could trace the affection, was a very severe sore throat, of which, however, he completely got rid. After a full investigation into the nature of the case, the surgeon decided on making a puncture in the drum of the ear. The operation being performed, the sense of hearing was instantly and completely restored. Now the remedy in this case depended on a delicate calculation, which a consummate knowledge of the anatomy of the parts could alone suggest; and so striking were the ingenuity and merit of the operation, that ihe Royal Society adjudged to Sir Astley, the Copleian medal, as a compliment to his skill.
From the perusal of sucb evidence as that which we have now laid before it, the public will be better prepared to understand, why it is that medical men set such a value upon the study of anatomy ; why it is that, in spite of threats and persecution, they still pursue it, in a number of instances, with the greatest ardour and perseverance; and why it is that no law, however severe, no prejudices, however uncompromising, can or will put down the practice of dissection in this country. The assurance that subjects can be
had for the dissecting table, is as certain as the permanence of the appetite for gain in the human heart; and it was from his experience of the truth of this reniark, that Sir Astley Cooper, when a witness before a committee of the House of Commons, was induced to make this startling declaration,-“ There is no person, let his situation in life be what it may, whom, if I were disposed to dissect, I could not obtain.” With whatever minimum of anatomical knowledge the bulk of surgeons may be contented, a considerable number will always be found in the profession, who will not dare to handle a knife for the purpose of operation, without thoroughly knowing anatomy-without long and assiduous dissection. Bodies they must have--no law, no penalty can interfere with them ; and as to stopping the sale of subjects, the suspension of all the markets of England would be just as practicable an attempt. The traffic in bodies is sure to go on, and all those horrors with which it has recently been associated, may, for aught we know, before long, be multiplied to a height, which the soul sickens to contemplate. Indeed we have the most dreadful apprehensions, that the arm of murder, instead of being stayed, will rather be invigorated, and will grasp its victims with much more security than
Let the public only consider, that a little more knowledge, a little more circumspection only are required to be employed by the reckless murderer, in order that he may carry on his atrocious practices with perfect impunity. It is the opinion of all anatomists, that modes of destroying life can be put in practice, which will leave so little trace of violence on the remains, as completely to baffle detection. “ When murder,” says a living physiologist, “ is committed in a mode which leaves marks of violence on the exterior of the body, suspicion may be excited ; and if, on examining the internal organs, they present certain appearances, the suspicion that murder has been committed will be confirmed. But these appearances in the internal organs are also produced by natural and common diseases, and, therefore, could never of themselves excite even a suspicion of violence. Yet how easy it is to produce death by strangulation, without leaving upon any part of the exterior of the body even the slightest discolouration, we have seen. But there are far more efficient means of accomplishing the object, than those which depend on stopping the respiration. There is a poison, and these poisons are becoming every day better known to the vulgar, which will destroy life with absolute certainty in from one to four minutes, and the simple expedient of exposing the body for a short time to a current of air, or to a shower of rain, will remove any traces of its presence and operation. There is another poison, which, in the minute dose of half a grain, will destroy the stoutest man in three minutes, and leave behind it not the slightest character by which its presence can be detected. There is abundantly produced from a substance in daily use, a gas, under the fatal influence of which a person may be brought,
without its being possible for human sagacity to discover that it has been employed ; and there is a gas which any man can carry about in his pocket, one full inspiration of which will infallibly extinguish life, without the chance of recovery, and without the possibility of detecting its action. If then it be made worth while to pursue murder as a trade, it can be carried on to a prodigious extent without detection."
Such are the warnings which the legislature and the public cannot pass by, whatever be the means which they may propose to avert the threatened evils.
If the remedy for the state of things of which we now complain, were either difficult to be discovered, or difficult to be put in practice, there would be some ground for delaying to adopt it. But what valid objections there can be against the proposal, for delivering to the dissecting rooms the bodies of those who have no relations or friends to be offended at this mode of disposing of their remains, we cannot possibly divine. This plan formed the substance of Mr. Warburton's late Bill, and was constructed upon a comparison of the evidence of the most experienced witnesses. It was shown, that the unclaimed bodies of two parishes alone, of London, would be sufficient for the consumption of all the anatomical schools of the metropolis.
All those who are hostile to dissection, generally ground their opposition to it on the necessity of respecting the natural feelings of the surviving relatives and friends of the deceased. But if there be no relations or friends to annoy-or if the relations of a dying man be so indifferent to his fate, as to refuse their presence at his death-bed, or afterwards at his funeral, it surely cannot be said that the transfer of the remains of such a person to the dissecting room, can be an occasion of displeasure in any quarter.
But there are spirits in our time on whom all argument is thrown away, and from whom we shall again no doubt hear the often repeated remonstrance—“What! is it in this partial manner you propose to deal with society--why do you legislate against the poor alone—why not make the rich a prey to your barbarous dissections—the poor have feelings as well as the affluent, &c." And this is the language and these the sentiments which have prevailed over, and even silenced the councils of sound wisdom and just policy!
The poor—the poor poor”--the interesting, the pitiable poor --they to be exclusively consigned to the surgeon's knife !-Can such injustice le endured in a Christian land? But let us fairly ask, on what class of the community the medical profession has a better right to call for sacrifices, ihan on the poor? For whose sake are some millions annually expended in this country in medical charity ? For the poor. For whom are those palaces of bumanity, that are to be found in every district of this great city, raised, furnished, an! provided--but the poor? Why, the primary object of inedical science is the relief of the poor. The very
education which is required in a member of the profession compels him, whether he will or no, to do gratuitous service to the poor.
If the finger of a broken down bricklayer's Jabourer only aches, he can in a moment command the assistance of a combination of surgical experience, ability, and skill, such as the wealthiest nobleman in the land, by the most profuse expenditure, could hardly collect around him. Should he, in the course of his avocations, meet with any untoward accident, a comfortable bed awaits him at the very first hospital where he applies. There he obtains the choicest medical advice, the kindest and most soothing attention from persons purposely appointed-medicines—suitable food-cordialsrestoratives-every species of diet, in short, which his situation may require, from the economic simplicity of barley water, up to the expensive luxury of genuine port wine. A doctor or a nurse is ever at his beck-and, night or day, he is watched with the same scientific and indefatigable attention.
But in order to give the poor the best possible chance, the medical faculty has divided itself into a series of detachments, each of which is commissioned with the care of some particular part of the body of a poor man. In one place they exclusively attend to his ears; in another, the medical gentlemen give up all their time to the study of his lungs; every possible means of relieving any complaint of his eyes, are sought after by some of the cleverest of the faculty; and the places where relief for these maladies may be obtained by the poor man, are distributed throughout the metropolis, in such a way as is best calculated to meet his convenience. The primary object, as we have already said, of the medical profession, in all its departments, is the relief of the poor—their relief from the most harassing of troubles, but especially from those diseases which put it out of their power lo earn a livelihood for themselves, or their wretched families. In medical establishments, they are cured and are maintained until they are well. The debt of gratitude which they owe to medical science, however they may estimate it, is much more than they can ever repay, and is, in truth, very inadequately compensated by the sacrifice of their bodies to the promotion of that science, which they, of all classes of society, are most interested in perfecting
We employ the word “sacrifice,” in order to comply with the vulgar estimate of the meaning of this word; for if, by surrendering a body to the knife of the dissector, it is supposed that a more speedy destruction of its elements will ensue, than, under ordinary circumstances, takes place, we must beg altogether to oppose such an interpretation. The French chemist, Fourcroy, has found, after a long course of investigation, that the seventh or eighth day after a body is put into the ground, is the latest at which it can be said to be whole. At the end of that short interval the process of decay commences, and produces, in the first instance, a fluid, which ultimately increases so as to burst the abdomen, and let out a gas that