§ 68. Mr. PENNY
asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that his Department has officially approached the Kingston Board of Guardians with a view to making arrangements for that authority to hand over the bodies of dead friendless paupers to the London hospitals for dissection purposes; in view of the odium which such a step throws upon the guardians, many of whom are averse to the proposal, will he reconsider the whole matter; and will he say whether similar overtures have been made to other hoards of guardians throughout the country?
§ Mr. PENNY
I am hardly satisfied with that answer. I want to know why the Ministry have singled out these friendless paupers alone. If these bodies are required, cannot they get lunatics and criminals? Are the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues prepared to will their bodies? I think an examination of their craniums might be useful.
§ Following is the answer promised:
§ Yes, Sir, the application to Kingston Guardians was made with my authority, and in this matter I have followed the invariable practice of my predecessors of all parties and of successive Home Secretaries with whom the responsibility under the Anatomy Acts rested prior to the transfer of this duty to the Minister of Health. I recognise the very natural objections which such a proposal must at first sight provoke, but I am satisfied that there is no alternative which would not have disastrous effects on surgical and medical education, and ultimately on the treatment of the sick. The effective teaching of anatomy and operative surgery, which form an essential part of medical education, will become impossible unless the necessary subjects can be made available for pratical instruction. If anatomy cannot be taught by the examination of the dead it will have to be learned by experiment on the living; and except in the case of the comparatively small number of students who could afford to go abroad for their anatomical study, young practitioners would be compelled to acquire by experimenting on their patients the knowledge which it would have been impossible to impart to them in the medical schools. Many other unions throughout the country, including those adjacent to Kingston, are co-operating with the Department in this matter, and I am glad to learn that it is generally recognised by the guardians that the poor would be the first to suffer if medical students could not obtain the necessary teaching without going abroad for it. I would add that the. Anatomy Acts contain detailed provisions as to the conditions under which bodies are to be used for this purpose, and these provisions are stringently enforced under the constant supervision of His Majesty's Inspector of Anatomy. All bodies used for this purpose are duly interred within the pre- 2260 scribed period after a religious service appropriate to the denomination to which the deceased belonged, and the place of burial is carefully recorded. It is impracticable to rely for this purpose upon those who voluntarily leave their bodies by will to be used for anatomical teaching, since the number is wholly insufficient. I would add that the reason for seeking the co-operation of the guardians is not the poverty of the persons concerned, but the fact that they have no known or traceable relatives to claim the body for burial, and therefore there is no one to be distressed by the use of the body for purposes which are vitally necessary to the proper teaching of medicine.