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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Blowing Up Cadavers

     If you want to stay up late worrying about lawsuits and bad publicity, explode a bomb near the body of someone who has willed his remains to science. This is perhaps the most firmly entrenched taboo of the cadaveric research world. Indeed, live, anesthetized animals have generally been considered preferable, as targets of explosions, to dead human beings. In a 1968 Defense Atomic Support Agency paper entitled "Estimates: Man's Tolerance to the Direct Effects of Air Blasts," i.e., from bombs--researchers discussed the effects of experimental explosions upon mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, cats, dogs, goats, sheep, steers, pigs, burros, and stump-tailed macaques, but not upon the actual subject of inquiry. No one had ever used a cadaver…to see what might happen….

     Aris Makris, who works for a company in Canada…which engineers protective gear for people who clear land mines…says dead people aren't aways the best models for gauging living people's tolerance to explosive blasts because their lungs, which are deflated and not doing the things that lungs normally do. The shock wave from a bomb wreaks the most havoc on the body's most easily compressed tissue, and that is found in the lungs: specifically, the tiny, delicate air sacs where the blood picks up oxygen and drops off carbon dioxide. An explosion shock wave compresses and ruptures these sacs. Blood then seeps into the lungs and drowns their owner, sometimes quickly, in ten or twenty minutes, sometimes over a span of hours.

Mary Roach, Stiff, 2003

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