"Throwing bodies onto the roof": The Use and Treatment of Cadavers in Mexican Medical Schools in the Early Twentieth Century

Thursday, January 6, 2011: 3:20 PM
Grand Ballroom Salon D (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
Jonathan M. Weber , Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
By the early twentieth century, in order to augment their newfound influence in Mexican society, physicians incorporated new practices.  Cadavers became the single most effective way to train physicians in anatomy and innovative surgical techniques.  While the 1931 law prohibited exhumations, medical schools often acquired cadavers in ways similar to the illegal traffic of bodies in the United States (US) and Western Europe.  In most instances, these bodies belonged to the lower classes who, if buried at all, lay in shallow graves.  Conversely, the upper classes built elaborate mausoleums both to display their wealth and to protect the corpses of loved ones.  The rich could exert political and economic influence to limit and oppose the desecration of their families’ corpses.  However, the poor lacked the resources to stop the use of their families’ bodies for medical science.               
Additionally, medical schools and students relied heavily on legal and illegal sources of cadavers to further their respective education.  The paper discusses both the legal and illegal measures used to obtain cadavers as well as their treatment once they reached the medical schools.