Bones

When I think about the word bones, I automatically think of the TV Show Bones. In the show, Dr. Temperance Brennan, a forensic anthropologist who works at the Jeffersonian Institution and also writes books, has an impressive ability to read clues from victims’ bones. Consequently, law enforcement calls her to assist with investigations when remains are so badly decomposed, burned, or destroyed that standard identification method are useless. Brennan often finds herself teamed with Special Agent Seeley Booth, a former Army sniper who mistrusts science and scientists when it comes to solving crimes but who has developed respect for Brennan, both professionally and personally. With this tv show, there is no questioning the purpose of Dr. Brennan “Bones” and Agent Booth; they are alerted that there has been a dead body decomposed, which leads to a murder case, that they need to close for the greater good. With that being said, a question arises. Should scientists be allowed to examine newly discovered bones in order to identify them and turn their death into a museum memorial area? In the book Fortune’s Bones: The Manumission Requiem by Marilyn Nelson and the article “Up To 7,000 Bodies Found Buried Beneath University Of Mississippi Medical Center” by Nina Golgowski. Together we will see if scientists should have that allowance to identify bones.

In the article “Up To 7,000 Bodies Found Buried Beneath University Of Mississippi Medical Center” by Nina Golgowski speaks on how researchers found a grave with as many of 7,000 bodies beneath the University of Mississippi Medical Center on their campus. It is noted that land was apart of the Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum until it was shut down around 80 years ago. Dr. Molly Zuckerman speaks with Nina on how the Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum institutionalized up to 35,000 patients between 1855-1935. Additionally, when the center was open, death was common, many patients died from tuberculosis, strokes, heart attack, and occasional epidemics of yellow fever and influenza, which was common during that time. However, one of the biggest things about this article is people wanting to find their ancestors on records and know what families will do when they repair their family lineage. For example, Karen Clark was able to find one of her ancestors who went through the center. “…one patient was her great-great-great grandfather, Isham Earnest, who fought in the War of 1812, a conflict between the U.S. and the United Kingdom. Earnest is believed to have died at the facility sometime between 1857 and 1859. It followed Earnest being ruled “insane,” said Clark”. With this finding, came many others in hopes of finding their ancestors. In this, Dr. Molly Zuckerman wants to be able to have a research team unbury all the coffins and identify all the remains. They were planning on creating a memorial, visitors center, and genealogy research facility. There is a glaring example of discovery and the decision to examine and identify the remains to discover a bigger purpose. Why can’t researchers gain permission to ask for consent? Give remains to the family so they can peacefully be put to rest.

Another example is the book Fortune’s Bones: The Manumission Requiem by Marilyn Nelson. Nelson takes her readers into the background of Fortune before his bones were in the Connecticut Museum. Fortune was a husband, father, baptized Christan, and slave. He works the land hard, from the examination of his bones, he was a strong man, but due to work, his back broke, and he endured pain for many years. Nelson makes it clear that he was a useful man, in both in life and death. A slave, stripped of his name. Slaves in Waterbury were buried in one of the town’s cemeteries, but when Fortune died, he was not buried. Fortune’s owner, Dr. Porter, was known as a bonesetter for many years and finally got an opportunity to study from a skeleton. With his bones, he studied them, inscribing them with their scientific names. “In profound and awful intimacy, I enter Fortune, and he enters me.” (Nelson, 19) It is with the irony that a slave master examines his slave’s bones, knowing the pain and hard labor he’s put him through to only dehumanizing him even more by taking his bones. Throughout generations, Fortune bones have been studied and used has first-hand medical training. His bones were used so much, to the point Fortune’s name was forgotten for a century. His bones were referred to as “Larry.” Even after the Porter family gave the bones to the Mattatuck Musume, he was still heavily examined, and researchers found Fortune’s names. Researchers learned he died from something quick, a sudden injury like whiplash. He died freely. With all this information, the question remains, should scientists be allowed to tests on bones?

As I have analyzed both readings, I have realized researches should test for the identity of the unknown remains, but they should give them back to the family to lay them to rest. I came to this conclusion due to the need to give back their voice. With no name, no identity there is no voice. When you attach a name to the remains, the family can give that person a voice and fill the lost family lineage. When it comes to the article, I can agree on identifying the remains but not turning the discovery into a museum to gain profit. When the bones no longer become personal but profitable, that’s where I disagree. With Fortunes Bones, his whole story has been about personal gain for others. A man whos lost his voice. He is a prime example of what we, as humans, should not do to one another. The dead should be at peace if they should not be, why do we say RIP… Rest in Peace.

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