Skip to content

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

December 21, 2008

I love it when you read a book, and it leads you to a decision.

For instance, within one chapter of reading Stiff, I decided I was going to donate my body to science. I even Tweeted about it (remember, once something hits Twitter, it cannot be refuted).

Well, I decided that if my organs cannot be salvaged, that I would like to be donated to science. For whatever cause. They can use my cadaver in car impact testings, gun testing, anatomy labs, whatever. I don’t care! It’s a body, and once I’m dead I have no use for it.

So, thanks Mary Roach, for writing Stiff. Now I need to get a will or something… Law-Man probably doesn’t take Twitter as a serious edict.

Roach wrote this novel in order to discover something new: she discusses how she’s traveled all over the world as a journalist and had seen everything five times. Then, she “began to look for the foreign lands between the cracks. Science was one such land. Science involving the dead was particularly foreign and strange and, in its repellent way, enticing” (14). This led her to study what happens to human bodies once they cease to live. And boy! What interesting things we do to them. Or decline to.

I recommend this book for anyone with morbid curiosities. Some people will likely be grossed out about this. If you don’t like reading about faces being peeled back and how a body decomposes, don’t read it.

This novel was written in 2003, so I am a quite behind in its coolness. For example, Roach discusses Plastination—the substitution of body fluids with plastic, which enables bodies to be preserved for eternity. And made a show out of! At press, she mentions that BodyWorlds hadn’t been shown in the U.S.

In 2006 some of the Biker Ghouls stormed Vancouver, B.C. to visit the Bodyworlds exhibit. Last year it came near us in Portland, Oregon. Apparently America got over its squeamishness in the years since this book was published.

Sorry for the BodyWorlds tangent. One who likes Stiff must like BodyWorlds and vice versa. Now, other than reading this book for morbid curiosity, you could also read it to learn something. Roach not only discusses what donating a body to science could entail, but she discusses alternatives. Cremation? Burial? Getting shot into space? Why are some cultures so opposed to certain practices?

If you want to donate your body to science, check out a medical school in your state. Fill out the forms in the presence of witnesses, and you should be OK. Of course, your survivors can always decline this, even if it’s your wish; therefore, you should let your family know of your intentions and how serious you are about it. Check out Living Bank for more details.


No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: