Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human CadaversStiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This exploration of what happens to human cadavers is both grisly and entertaining. At least at times it is interesting and educational, although it is not for the weak of constitution. Roach approaches the subject by visiting a wide variety of institutions including morgues, hospitals, medical schools, mortuaries, research facilities, and military bases. She’s interviewed people at all of those and well beyond including transplant surgeons and highway patrolmen. She also explored much of the literature on the subject going back as far as the Ancient Greeks and Romans. The scientific and medical part wasn’t hard to take; neither was the mortuary and funeral business end. But when it got to accounts of medical experimentation in centuries past that could only be described as torture, it got to be time to skip a chapter or two. Roach is often witty with a dark sense of humor, though mostly respectful on the subject, but some, especially those of a religious bent, will find it offensive at times. It’s not all on human cadavers, either. Animal experimentation is included and is among the most stomach-turning. Be warned.

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