9 Unique Uses For a Dead Human Person

So, I've got a full on writer crush on Mary Roach. Fantastic. Fantastically amazingly fantastic. I found Stiff on my local Savers' shelf and scooped it up immediately. Not only had I been dying to read it for-e-ver, but it was a steal at $2. I am a bit dark in my tastes, so not all the information was new. But most of it was and all of it was written delightfully well. Now, for your reading pleasure, 9 unique uses for a dead human person. But please, please please please, pick up the work that inspired this list. It will be well worth your time. Promise.
1. Composting. I actually really like this idea. Instead of putting out noxious fumes to burn up flesh and bones to then pollute the air with ashes, why not give back to the earth? Try this instead: freeze dry your body, crush it up, mulch it and then nurture a memorial tree. I'm down. And I bet the tree will be grateful to.

2. Crash Test Dummies. I already was familiar with this idea, but reading about it made me more accepting of the practice. The floppy mannequinesque dolls that come to mind are only used once researchers know what levels of pressure to look for. And the only way to know how much pressure it takes to crack a human skull is to, well, crack a human skull. And when you think that 8,500 lives are saved a year by a few cadavers crashing into walls, it makes a lot more sense.

3. Penal Implants. You donate your skin with grand ideas of helping children burn victims. Which may happen. What also might happen- your skin is processed and used to cosmetically fill cougar's crows feet or make Mr. Tom's Little Tom a bit less little. But hey, I bet Little Tom is immensely grateful.

4. Forensic Decomposition. By far one of the grossest, and coolest, things to happen to a corpse. The University of Tennessee Medical Center runs a field research facility that studies the decomposition of human bodies under different, possible criminal, situations. Corpses are encased in concrete, left in shallow graves, left in car trunks, set adrift in ponds and stacked in garbage bags, to name a few. Chemical breakdown times are established by these disintegrating bodies which helps determine time of death. Police departments everywhere are grateful.

5. Sex. Yes, we've all heard of necrophilia, or more specifically, sexual actions with the deceased. But only 22 states have laws against it. So you'd better hope to die in Arizona or Nevada, because otherwise it's not a problem to have a good time before the embalming fluid sets in. I am quite sure this doesn't take place at the University of Tennessee Medical Center.

6. Human Mummy Confection. The basic idea is to steep a human cadaver in honey, let sit for a hundred years until it all congeals, then use medicinally. The story goes that aging Arabic men would eat only honey until it killed them. Then their bodies would be bathed and laid to rest in honey for the requisite century. The resulting substance would usually be applied topically, but at times it would be ingested for the patient to receive the full benefits. Honey has since been proven to have antibacterial properties, but I have yet to hear anything about the health benefits of cannibalism.

7. Face-lift Testers. Donated bodies that have been utilized for organs or other purposes can find their heads literally ending up on the chopping block. Sliced off at the chin, heads are placed in roasting pans and a few lucky plastic surgeons can tweak the techniques that keep housewives looking plastic.

8. Airplane Crash Detectives. When planes crash, usually the wreckage tells the story. When planes crash in the ocean, and sink, the plane may be irretrievable and aviation pathologists must study the "human wreckage." For example, if most of the passengers died from broken ribs, punctured lungs or ruptured aortas, it's a good indication that they had all been alive before they hit the water. If there were body parts strewn about or shrapnel in the bodies, it's likely there was an explosion. So, even if you didn't survive the crash, you could still have a short career as a detective.

9. Art Displays. German anatomist von Hagen developed an highly controversial art exhibit composed of plastinated human bodies. At the time Stiff was written, the exhibit, Koperwelten, was only touring Europe. Now most major cities have hosted an exhibit of Koperwelten, better known as BodyWorlds. I have seen it myself and have to say it's quite an experience. For the most part they look like models, but then you get close enough to see eyelashes and you remember this used to be a member of someone's family. Educational and impactful. I recommend checking it out.

Whew! Quite the list! For those of you who were intrigued, I strongly suggest picking up Stiff. You will love it. For all the rest of you, I still suggest it. It's just a killer awesome book.

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