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I’m very lucky to have access to experiences which most people will never see.  As part of my training I have dissected bodies and observed postmortums, both of which teach students about essential anatomy.

Mortuary slabs reveal just how unpredictable and unfair death can be. Image: todmaffin

Whilst doing so they also give an invaluable insight into death, death is random and unpredictable, we all think we will make it to the UK’s average life expectancy of 79.4 years of age, but as the mortutay slabs will tell you, not all of us will.

Death is incredibly upsetting because it has no conscious, it takes everybody: babies, children, pregnant women, young parents, absolutely anybody can die at any age.

I have seen the bodies of people just twice my age, and I’m only 25.  I have seen the blackened lungs of heavy smokers, the fatty organs of the obese and the huge hearts of the hypertensive.

We spend millions on health promotion a year, but blimey march a few smokers and junk food addicts into the morgue and after setting eyes on a cold dead body with organs so diseased they lie dead at such a young age and I’d dare anybody to continue their habit.

The dying are hidden from society

But people don’t see death, it’s seperated from us, when a friend or an acquaintence starts to die they are taken away from society, they die at home, in a hospice or in a hospital with just their very closesst family around them.

Only the minority of the population who have watched somebody die know what it’s really like, and it couldn’t be further from the Hollywood death we are used to seeing in the movies.

To die your body needs to shut down, your organs need to stop working and your body processes need to cease, in the majority of cases you don’t go from talking dearly to your loved ones to death, there is a lot of detioration inbetween.

As soon as a death happens, we go back to the open process, beautiful flowers surround a carved wooden box, the relatives are distracted from the pain and the suffering and for the acquaintences shut away from the death, it’s as if it never happened.

This mechanism protects people from the reality of death but do we not need some perspective?

I can imagine the friends of one of those I’ve seen, sitting around talking about their shock that he died so suddenly and then going back to eating their all day breakfast in the pub, without a second thought to what the dangerous lifestyle of their friend did to him, and what it could be doing to them.

There’s only one person I’ve seen who wants to take this message to the masses, Gunther von Hagens, the German anatomist who had dissected live on television, who wants to show the masses how the body works and just why we need to keep is as pristine as possible.

Von Hagens has put up exhibitions of human bodies in major cities all over the world, to alleviate the gap between the living and the dead, sadly he revealed this week that he’s dying of Parkinson’s disease, I just hope his death won’t lead to the world becoming even more shut off from death to the extent it stops us from living as long and as well as we could.

Image: todmaffin


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