Author: Reilly Liberto

The Unnamed Dead

Chapter five of Harriet Washington’s Medical Apartheid opens with a description of the disappearance of Casper Yeagin, whose body was donated to the Howard University Medical School for anatomical dissection (as later discovered by his niece). Yeagin had no personal possessions when admitted to the Howard University Hospital, causing him to be registered as John Doe. His John Doe tag resulted in no one stepping forward to claim his body post mortem. Washington refers to the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act of 1968, allowing unidentified or unclaimed bodies to be donated to medical schools.  The idea that an unidentified body could be donated to a medical school is unfamiliar and surprising to me. While I understand this Act allows for a way to dispose of bodies without them going to “waste”, it led me back to Monday’s class discussion on the display of Fortune’s bones in a museum and if that is truly what Fortune would have wanted for his body. Read more