We all like to have a grumble about the shortcomings of the NHS from time to time, but the fact remains that we are very fortunate to be living in the times we are when it comes to medical treatment.
The exhibition is based on the 2006 findings of Museum of London archaeologists at a burial ground at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. They excavated the bones of hundreds of bodies that displayed extensive evidence of dissection, autopsy and amputation.
The focus of the exhibition is on the so-called ‘Resurrection Men’ or bodysnatchers of 18th and 19th Century London who stole bodies from fresh graves to sell to medical schools.
Back in the 1800s, if you broke your leg, chances are you would have had it amputated, without anaesthetic! There was no antiseptic either, so even after a successful surgery there was still a risk of death from blood loss or infection.
In order for anatomical study to progress and surgeons to be trained, there was a growing demand for corpses in London’s medical schools at the time. This led to some rather shadowy practises, including grave robbing and even murder!
These are just a few of the many gruesome facts on display in this macabre, yet fascinating exhibition. It also provides a historical overview of medical training with surgical instruments, detailed anatomical wax models and drawings on display as well as examples of the excavated bones found on site.
It may be grisly, but Doctors, Dissection and Resurrection Men offers a unique insight into an area of London’s history that is often overlooked.
And of course, even in the 21st Century, this is still an issue.
According to The Royal College of Surgeons in 2007, ‘A national shortage of bodies donated to medical science is threatening the teaching of anatomy.’
Perhaps the exhibition will inspire you to donate your body to medical science. If anything, it is bound to make you appreciate the progress in medicine over the centuries and to thank your lucky stars, as I do, that you are living in the age you are.