Medicine: The Body Boom

Although it is essential to studying the secrets of life, dissection of the dead was anathema to laymen for many centuries. Emperors and popes once forbade the practice, forcing physicians to utilize the services of body snatchers who, as late as the 19th century, obtained cadavers in midnight graveyard forays. One British ghoul, William Burke, was hanged in 1829 for creating instant specimens out of innocent wayfarers. As late as the 1960s, medical schools relied upon unclaimed bodies and found even these in short supply.

No more. Tens of thousands of Americans in recent years have decided to bequeath their bodies to...

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