Image: an autopsy table

Internal Reflection – Life (and Death) in a Hospital Mortuary

Image: an autopsy table

Photo via Flickr/Luca Rossato

In the first of our ocassional Internal Reflection series featuring work by students on Imperial College’s Science Communication MSc programmes, Ed Prosser describes a fascinating project, exploring science within a rather unusual setting.

I’m currently working on a radio project, which involves exploring attitudes to death in today’s society. I was particularly interested in talking to those who viewed death as something ‘ordinary’ and so in the past few months I have been interviewing mortuary workers, pathologists, undertakers and palliative care nurses.

 In the audio excerpts below you will first hear a guided tour around a hospital mortuary, given by pathologist Dr Stuart Hamilton of Sunderland Royal Hospital. The second piece, entitled ‘Adam as machine’, explores Stuart’s very mechanical take on life in which he considers the structure of the human body and death as a routine biological process.

 To the majority of people, the hospital mortuary remains a place largely unknown and possibly the last place anyone would want to visit. The obscurity of such a place is perhaps a reflection of our desire to remove death from all walks of modern life. We simply do no not like talking about death and as such we have removed it from the ordinary and awarded it with a very special quality.

 This has perhaps resulted from medicine’s quest to prolong lifespan, whereas some 150 years ago death was very much part of day-to-day life. We’ve alienated and removed death outside the periphery of the ordinary and as a consequence, like much of what exists in the unknown, we have grown to fear it.

Mortuary tour:

Adam as Machine:

 If you’d like to find out more about this project please visit my blog.

Ed Prosser is studying for an MSc in Science Communication at Imperial College, London.


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