The Earl of Radnor
presented a Petition from William Cobbett, against the Anatomy Bill. The petitioner, in an elaborate essay, opposed the measure, and contended, that a due degree of anatomical knowledge could be procured without resorting to the provisions contained in this Bill.
The Earl of Malmesbury
observed, that this Bill pressed hardly upon the poor, who would be most affected by its operation. The body of a poor man who died in the hospital, in consequence of an accident, might, if not claimed within a certain time, be made use of in the dissecting- 1086 room. Perhaps the individual himself might not care if his body were so treated; but he begged of their Lordships to look a little further, and consider what might be the feelings of his family. Individuals, perfect strangers in town, frequently sought for employment in the metropolis. They might, while employed by a builder, or any other tradesman, meet with accidents productive of death. Some time might elapse before their relatives were apprized of their fate, and then they would be horror-struck when they found that their bodies were consigned to the dissecting-room. If something could be done to obviate the objections that could fairly be raised against this measure, and, at the same time, to furnish an adequate number of bodies for the purposes of dissection, it would give him very great satisfaction.
The Earl of Minto
said, that the poor were more concerned than any other portion of the community in the dissemination of surgical knowledge. In his opinion, therefore, no such inconveniences as those which had been adverted to by his noble friend ought to be allowed to stand in the way of this measure. In consequence of the extreme scarcity of subjects, those who were employed to supply the surgeons had, in many instances, been guilty of the most frightful crimes. One man, who had been executed at Edinburgh, confessed to the murder of between twenty-five and thirty persons; another individual, who had more recently undergone the sentence of the law, confessed to two murders. He also admitted two cases in which murder had been attempted, but the attempt had failed; and, on the morning of his execution, he was on the point of confessing another murder, when he was interrupted in his recital.
§ Lord Wynford
said, he had been informed by a highly respectable practitioner, that a full supply of subjects could be obtained without resorting to the provisions of this Bill.
The Earl of Minto
admitted that it would be an improvement, if the provisions of the Bill could be so framed as not to point out so distinctly as it did, that its operation had reference to a particular class.
§ Petition laid on the Table.