What Not to Do in a Morgue

Simon Winchester tells a story about working in a morgue when he was 18 years old. His job was to remove certain parts from dead bodies for pathology investigations before sending them to the funeral home. He was young and inexperienced, and often was left alone to "prepare bodies." One day, a leukemia patient arrived, and the manual instructed him to remove the femur and send it to pathology. He did, but then things got weird.  

It was approaching lunchtime when I had the elderly gentlemen blanket-stitched back to normal and his clothes back on. He looked in pretty fair shape, except that his leg, unsupported by any internal skeletal scaffolding, kept flopping off the table. No matter how often I pushed it back up, it always contrived to free itself and flop off toward the floor.

It was at this moment when the undertaker arrived. He was called Sid, and when he saw the pendulum swinging of the boneless leg, he displayed what I can best describe as an animated vexation. He declared vehemently that he was not effing taking that body with that effing leg, or words to that effect.

What to do, I asked. "Not my effing problem, mate," he returned. But then, taking pity: "Tell you what. I'm just going for me dinner. Be back in an hour. Just go and find something to stiffen up the leg, put it in the old bugger, and then I'll be back at 2. Sound like a plan?"

What to do? Winchester figured it out on his own, which leads to a rather embarrassing (and funny) end, which you can read in full at The Week.

(Image credit: P.J.L Laurens)


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Organ donation includes removal of anything useful. Bones are useful. What remains of remains following a completed donation would surprise most. PVC is the replacement of choice for legs and hips (sometimes wood dowels, not usually). Cut to length, fitted with fittings, and durable. Ear bones, corneas, cartilage, skin, and organs, on bodies still intended for open casket funerals are the burden of unsung embalmers just trying to get home before the kids go to bed.
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