Educational post-mortem autopsy video.
October 4, 2002 5:21 PM   Subscribe

Educational post-mortem autopsy video. I found this utterly fascinating. Needless to say many people will not react in the same way. [QuickTime]
posted by Pretty_Generic (53 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I had to close the browser after the first two cuts. Someone else will have to tell the story of what happens after that. Argh!
posted by bklyntrayc at 5:28 PM on October 4, 2002

yes, do not click this link. locked up my computer twice. i have quicktime and this seems fishy. I may have a jalopy, but rarely have i had this kind of lock-up.
posted by clavdivs at 5:43 PM on October 4, 2002

I blame the jalopy.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 5:45 PM on October 4, 2002

I was able open it fine, but had to close it about 5 seconds into it. eeww...
posted by wsg at 5:54 PM on October 4, 2002

I may be a creep, but I found this sort of thing really interesting. I never realized that skin was so thick. With the connecting tissue cut off it just seems to sit there like a suit.

Kind of unsettling when they find her breast implants.
posted by phatboy at 6:20 PM on October 4, 2002

Fascinating, but then i like watching Operation on the learning channel. I also watched a doctor operate on my wrist and thought it was one of the most interesting things I have ever experienced. Genuine insight into my self! At last!
posted by srboisvert at 6:45 PM on October 4, 2002

Um, aren't all autopsies post-mortem?
posted by LittleMissCranky at 7:03 PM on October 4, 2002

Working in a hospital, I see this stuff all the time. Including genital surgery, autopsies, etc. My friend does all the video editing, and he has a big monitor that looks out over the office that displays whatever he is working on at the moment. One day he paused a video on an image of a child with both male and female sex organs getting a testicle removed as part of a procedure to make them all female. It was very difficult to identify what was actually going on, except that it was very strange and disturbing looking. Until one day a really goofy doctor walked into the office, and blurted, "WOW! A TESTICLE!!" It was funny.
posted by phidauex at 7:23 PM on October 4, 2002

Um, aren't all autopsies post-mortem?

They sure as hell better be.
posted by jjg at 7:28 PM on October 4, 2002

Wow - that is amazingly cool to see. I would have assumed they would drain the body of blood before they started carving it up, but judging from all the fluid that seemed to be sloshing around in the cavity, they either don't do that, or there remains a lot of blood in some of the organs.

I can't believe how quick they go. I know it's systematic, and they've probably done a million of them, but they must really know their way around a body.
posted by willnot at 7:41 PM on October 4, 2002

Truly fascinating, yet a car wreck, I guess - it repels you, but you can't help looking. My question is, do they reassemble the person for a funeral after the autopsy? How in the world do they hide their handiwork?
posted by Oriole Adams at 7:47 PM on October 4, 2002

Perhaps it's a banal observations, and not to come off too much like an old fogey shaking his head in wonder at 'the kids today', but does it strike anyone else how much we, and our culture, have changed in the last decade or so, when we can just click on a link on (what has become) a general-interest site like Metafilter, and watch an autopsy video?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:55 PM on October 4, 2002

stavros: that's why I love internet (and another thousand good reasons).

That video was fascinating, mildly disturbing. Technically speaking, a good butcher could do the same, but of course they can't because they're not trained to examin the body, just to cut it.

I know a girl who does this job. She's cute, very funny and does no bad jokes about her job. It's just a job after all, but apparently grossly underpaid. I think they deserve money just for the bad reputation that usually surrounds them, probably unjustified. Imagine splitting bodies all the day long, not nearly as funny as PR or Marketing.
posted by elpapacito at 8:05 PM on October 4, 2002

I wonder what makes some people so squeamish?
posted by rushmc at 8:05 PM on October 4, 2002

Um, aren't all autopsies post-mortem?

The pre-mortem ones are usually referred to as disembowelment and / or homicide. At least, when me and my buddies do 'em, they are...
posted by Dark Messiah at 8:12 PM on October 4, 2002

Oriole Adams: regarding embalment, long ago a relative of mine worked at a mortuary and he said after the autopsy was done, they put all the organs back in the body cavity, in no particular order, and sewed it back up. Not like anyone's going to check. And after doing their chemical embalming thing I assume. But this was several decades ago so I don't know if that process still applies.

Fascinating video, I can't believe that even with edits, they've taken a human apart in less than half an hour. And I don't mean that in a gruesome way--these coroners are fast and are quite interested in their work. Those branch cutters they used to disconnect the rib cage save a lot of time I guess. Thanks for the link.
posted by Tacodog at 8:27 PM on October 4, 2002

I always thought they put the organs in a big ol' plastic bag before sewing the chest back up...minor point, I guess.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:31 PM on October 4, 2002

I thought the most bizzare part was when they found the breast implants (the narrator is very intrigued, as if he just learned that his barber vacations at the same beach he does), waved one around for the camera a little, then tucked it back where it came from, almost as if to make sure it doesn't get lost.
posted by gsteff at 8:31 PM on October 4, 2002

I wonder what makes some people so squeamish?

I took an anatomy class, and more often than not, what made people have to leave the room when cadaver work was done was when the body's hands were uncovered. The theory is that seeing the hands humanizes the dead lump of flesh in front of you into a former person.
posted by toddshot at 8:34 PM on October 4, 2002

I wonder what makes some people so squeamish?

What makes others non-squeamish? I mean, technically, shouldn't there be something wrong with a going about the dismemberment of a former living being, with casual indifference.

The video didn't make me sick -- as I've seen much worse -- but I wouldn't be the least bit shocked if many people had problems watching.

Some people just don't want to see the human anatomy in *drum roll* such gory detail. (Thanks, I'm here all night.)
posted by Dark Messiah at 8:37 PM on October 4, 2002

" does it strike anyone else how much we, and our culture, have changed in the last decade or so, when we can just click on a link on (what has become) a general-interest site like Metafilter, and watch an autopsy video?"

There used to be a time (not even that long ago) when autopsies were public events. There was an amphitheater, and artists, scientists, and the curious would gather round while a doctor would disect and lecture.

Those were the days ;P
posted by atom128 at 8:42 PM on October 4, 2002


(Will there be a mid-term?)
posted by HTuttle at 8:45 PM on October 4, 2002

Did anyone hear a skillet sizzlin' in the background?
posted by disgruntled at 9:04 PM on October 4, 2002

Did anyone hear a skillet sizzlin' in the background?

Sorry, I left the wok at home.
posted by Dark Messiah at 9:12 PM on October 4, 2002

Yes - this is a link one might see at Ogrish ( no link necessary, if you are meant to get there, you will....)

Very good quality... and the lighthearted nature of the procedure -- make that the conversation surrounding it -- was refreshing, more so than say some deathcore sludge vocal over a frenetic beat, which is usually the case, turning the delicate operation into some amplified sick attraction.

I watched until the stage of the attention to the neck and tongue organs -- I then closed the movie, having thought I had seen enough. I did not click on the Lockwood Movie, however curious I was.

The QT was laid out a bit sloppily... all the QT embedded code.... I right clicked ( yes I have not made the "Switch " ) on the movie and then opened it, the QT player popping up.
posted by RubberHen at 9:54 PM on October 4, 2002

I mean, technically, shouldn't there be something wrong with a going about the dismemberment of a former living being, with casual indifference.

Why? Dead is dead. I'd be a bit suspicious of anyone with no basic curiosity about the structure of the sort of body they inhabited their entire existence.
posted by rushmc at 10:24 PM on October 4, 2002

This video reminded me of The Act of Seeing with One's Own Eyes by Stan Brakhage (about as famous as autopsy films get -- purported aliens notwithstanding).

stavros: personally, I am more disturbed by the Daniel Pearl video (not just our ability to instantly access it, but the base urge to want to watch it) than by something so clinical as an autopsy. Heck, I'm more disturbed by than I am by this.

I think the base instincts that fuel our fascination have always been there within us; the Internet (and VCRs before that) has merely given us quicker and easier access to such material.
posted by filmgoerjuan at 10:58 PM on October 4, 2002

I don't find this the least bit pleasant, but it is interesting. I think it is humbling, that we are all simply flesh like the meat we eat. My fiance however LOVES this shit. Of course, she is in Harvard Med. She was telling me last week, while we were eating at Redbones in Somerville (which serves BBQ), how they had just done the rib disection...
posted by McBain at 11:04 PM on October 4, 2002

filmgoerjuan, I think you misunderstood what I was trying to say, which is probably my fault. I didn't mean that a link like this to an autopsy video was disturbing, any more or less than executions or goatse pics or kitten-eating or any of the other happy fun imagery from our wonderful and glorious global culture...

What I meant was that the fact of accessibility to things as visceral as this (to make a small joke, which as you say is quick and easy, has to be having a profound influence on us, on what we are willing to accept as commonplace, one that I don't see discussed much (although I may be talking to and reading the wrong people (links, anyone?)).

I was a teenager in the late seventies/early eighties and I remember what a major score it was to get my hands on a Playboy magazine, so innocuous by today's standards, for example. I'd seen dead bodies in real life, but never as fetishized in photographs or video. I'd been elbows deep in the blood of a dead moose, helping to butcher it, but the kind of pornography (in the purest sense, the prostitution of imagery) that this link demonstrates was something I really couldn't have guessed at. I don't find it shocking in and of itself - nothing is shocking, after all - but I do wonder what 10 year olds today are going to be like as adults, when have been exposed to, well, everything, before they reach the first blush of puberty. I wonder what it does to me, jaded old me, too.

Once again, I don't think it's a shock horror o my god someone think of the children type of thing, I'm just curious.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:49 PM on October 4, 2002

Wow, I picked the wrong week to read Fast Food Nation.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:52 PM on October 4, 2002

My favorite line from the PM movie:
Narrator -- "Yes, those are silicone implants."
Female pathologist -- [Holds up a removed implant for inspection] "I'll be damned!" [Stuffs implant back into breast]

Personally, I think the creepiest thing about this link is the bank of thumbnails of the bearded turtleneck-wearing guy staring down-right of the camera. What *is* he looking at?!?
posted by wdpeck at 1:13 AM on October 5, 2002

How strange. I knew what I was about to watch, but I couldn't have predicted my reaction to this video.

Mainly I found myself thinking about this woman and who she was, and imagining the people who loved her and their loss. And what was really interesting for me was to view her lying there initially intact, still looking like that person she was, and about how much more final her death seemed with each part of her body that was cut away. I mean, I know she was quite dead at the start of the video, but when the body is intact it's so easy to project the idea of a *person* onto that body, even though the person is no more.

With each part of her that was cut away, I caught myself thinking, "look, those are the lungs she breathed with"; "look, those are the intestines she digested her meals with"; "look, that's the brain this person lived in". I also had a strange reaction as each organ was removed that went something like, "Oh my god, now that you're removing those kidneys, you won't be able to put them back in again!" Or, "Holy shit, you just totally destroyed that woman's chest by sawing her ribs off like that!" I know it's irrational, but she seemed to get a little bit more dead with each slice, and it made me a little sad.

And yeah, the breast implants were an interesting find. I couldn't help but think about all the feelings she had about her body, what her reasons for getting the implants were, if she was getting them to please others or herself or both, whether she was happy with how she looked after getting them, and how trivial all of it seemed now that they were being picked out and dangled in front of a camera.

I guess I know enough about anatomy that seeing her organs or all the blood wasn't weird for me. I didn't find it gross at all.

I probably sound like I've never thought about any of this before, which isn't the case, but I still found this really interesting. I'll probably be thinking about it for a while.
posted by boredomjockey at 1:30 AM on October 5, 2002

i felt the same way boredomjockey. when they were peeling the skin from her skull, i was thinking, "that was the hair she brushed and had cut". they never did give an official cause of death, just a suspected one. when they are looking at the bladder the doctor said, "that doesn't look too bad for someone who..." and didn't finish the sentence.

was anyone else picturing the female doctor as lillith from cheers?
posted by centrs at 1:54 AM on October 5, 2002

I didn't watch the video, but I'm curious if the face was covered? To me, this seems like a gross violation of privacy, and yes, I do believe the dead have a right to privacy. I have no problem against medical personal watching (and learning) from a tape such as this, but it should not have been made available to the public. What if that corpse was your mother, or daughter, or sister, and how would it feel to have thousands of strangers cracking jokes about breast implants, while watching your loved one get carved up like a slice of turkey? I'm sorry for the sermon, but it just seems so cruel to me.
posted by Beholder at 1:56 AM on October 5, 2002

Beholder: both face and genital area are covered. I'm glad I'm getting such a positive response to this! The video made me realise how little we think about what we're carrying around in our bodies 24 hours a day, and how one day it all stops being a life and becomes just a load of proteins.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 3:38 AM on October 5, 2002
posted by matteo at 3:45 AM on October 5, 2002

Yes, I see what you did there.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 3:47 AM on October 5, 2002

Does the face being covered really matter? I still don't think a person's autopsy should be used in a training video, unless they gave permission before their death. That might actually be the case here, but there isn't anyway of knowing whether this person had donated their body to science, or was simply a convenient hunk of meat.

Is there is a difference between donating your body to science with the expectation of being used in a medical school, or a body being randomly selected out of a morgue? Was the woman's face covered to protect her privacy, or because the medical examiner was afraid of getting sued by the family?
posted by Beholder at 4:25 AM on October 5, 2002

boredomjockey, thanks for articulating precisely what I have always felt watching such events - including the static displays at places like Philadelphia`s Mutter Museum.

I always feel a certain awe and humility when confronted with the fragility of the envelope within which we spend the ~75 years of our lives, how amazing it is that it gets us through...

I am also fascinated by the apparent but generally unarticulated belief in a "deadness gradient" that this video brings to the surface in many of us, as if there were degrees of deadness - when they removed her brain, I was overwhelmed by the thought, "Well, there she goes..." as if everything I had seen up until then was reversible.
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:29 AM on October 5, 2002

"The Deadness Gradient" - that's the new John Grisham paperback.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 6:07 AM on October 5, 2002

I think the base instincts that fuel our fascination

I think that is a gross mischaracterization of a normal, scientific curiosity and desire to learn and understand.
posted by rushmc at 10:32 AM on October 5, 2002

Having been lucky enough to see an autopsy upclose (or unlucky enough, you decide) I thought I'd chime in.

I was allowed to come in with a tour group of biomedical photography students because my friend worked there at the time as the photographer (I was an illustration major). While the first thought was "Wow. That's a person.", it was quickly replaced with intrigue at the process-at seeing the human body stripped down and seeing the skelletal structure. It's one thing to see a photograph of the human skull, another entirely to see it...emerge. I don't know if it's easy to objectify what I was seeing because of my illustrative interest in the human body, something to do with my own personality, a subconsious protective response, or because a dead body just doesn't look real (the skin tone/texture makes it look fake to one who is used seeing "dead" people in movies")

The hardest part is the smell, actually. The smell is, yes, like that of meat...but not. There's no other smell like a dead human, and it felt as if my senses recognized it even though I had never smelled it before.
posted by Windigo at 10:39 AM on October 5, 2002

I watched it all the way through - to me the 'bad' part was over as soon as the skin was stripped away, after that it was just meat. Those businesslike first incisions were pretty harsh on the psyche. I was disappointed that no cause of death was found during the autopsy, it was like a story that had no end. The female doctor was definitely Lilith from Cheers - the voice was spot on!

Highly educational and fascinating, not anywhere near as gross as I was expecting, though I don't think I'll be watching it again. Who knew that organs came packaged in 'modules' that way? I didn't.
posted by chrid at 11:35 AM on October 5, 2002

rushmc: I take your point...I did not mean to imply that those who wish to view the autopsy video are driven solely by "base instincts"; certainly, there are many who have a legitimate interest in the workings of the human body. However, I also think that many people's interest in material such as this stems less from "normal, scientific curiosity" and more from an innate curiosity to see something out of the ordinary (or taboo or bizarre or prohibited or choose another loaded/unloaded word that means "something most people wouldn't normally get to see"). I think it's fair to say that not everyone who rents a Faces of Death video has scientific or "serious" inquisition at the forefront of their mind.

stavros, you raise an interesting point...and one that I haven't seen discussed much either. Personally, I do think that there is a difference between having such material commonly available and for that material to become commonplace. I think that some things will always remain shocking/mysterious/taboo no matter how much more we're able to access them (at least, I'd like to think so...time will tell).
posted by filmgoerjuan at 11:56 AM on October 5, 2002

not the jalopy PG. analogous to the auto repair biz:
'the problem was between the seat and the steering wheel'
posted by clavdivs at 12:08 PM on October 5, 2002

I think I'm the only one who found it disturbing that the woman was so attractive. I can see they would want the most "perfect anatomical subject" for this, but why go so far as to get one with breast implants? Some redneck with a beer gut -- that's a useful slab of flesh. An attractive woman is something I'd wish wasn't dead.

Is it just me, or did the male butcher seem self-conscious about touching her breasts? I can see how he wouldn't want people to think he likes touching them, but it does make it clear that he realizes they're breasts. The exposed flesh underneath the breast is fine, but the nipples are off limits. That seems kind of funny to me.

If I knew anyone who does this for a living, I would tease them constantly. It would be more fun than having a friend who does therapeutic massages on other men. A little self-conscious homophobia is common, but it's not everyone who gives a big reaction every time you make a little joke. With these people, I bet they're super-sensitive to necrophilia jokes. You know those guys have had at least one dream where the woman on the table comes to life. They probably never admit it to anyone either.
posted by son_of_minya at 12:25 PM on October 5, 2002

I know that when I had an operation that I signed some kind of release form permitting students, other medical personnel, etc. to watch as part of the educational process. I can't remember, but I think pictures and video were allowed, too. I signed it as I had other more important things on my mind then whether my colon was going to be a major attraction at the public hospital ... My only regret was that I never asked to see the section they removed. Anyway, I'm sure that someone had to have signed a release for this to be filmed and viewable by the public.

Intriguing video.
posted by pyramid termite at 3:24 PM on October 5, 2002

I think it's fair to say that not everyone who rents a Faces of Death video has scientific or "serious" inquisition at the forefront of their mind.

Fair enough, but I'm not sure that I would immediately negatively characterize those motives and instincts either.
posted by rushmc at 3:32 PM on October 5, 2002

I am also fascinated by the apparent but generally unarticulated belief in a "deadness gradient" that this video brings to the surface in many of us, as if there were degrees of deadness - when they removed her brain, I was overwhelmed by the thought, "Well, there she goes..." as if everything I had seen up until then was reversible.

adamgreenfield: That's a perfect term for what I was trying to describe.

Here's what came to me as I gave it some more thought: An intact, unblemished, recently-dead person looks just like a sleeping person (in a Quicktime video, at least). And while I've seen more sleeping people than I can remember, I can count the number of dead people I've seen on one hand. So when I look at a person lying there like that, I can think to myself, "she's dead", but the mental model I have in my head for understanding what I'm seeing just doesn't correspond. Instead I picture my girlfriend laying still like that with her eyes closed, as I've seen her a thousand times, and I picture kissing her on the nose and her eyes opening and her smiling at me. It's just hard (and unpleasant) to imagine anything else.

Likewise when the big initial Y-shaped incision was made: I've seen cuts on people's bodies, and I've seen incisions made in surgery, and if you follow the little map of reality in my head, after a while the incision gets stitched up and the cut heals and everyone goes out for coffee. I think there was an unconscious backdrop of denial hanging behind what I was seeing until the destruction of the body became so severe that it became impossible to maintain it.
posted by boredomjockey at 2:20 AM on October 6, 2002

For you grammar geeks: In that last post, I should have pictured my girlfriend "lying" still, rather than "laying".
posted by boredomjockey at 2:25 AM on October 6, 2002

Fair enough, but I'm not sure that I would immediately negatively characterize those motives and instincts either.

Hmm...I think you're right that I've negatively characterized those motivations, but reading over my comments it seems to me to be more their tone rather than any specific language (though "base instincts" certainly doesn't sound complimentary, I intended it more to mean "basic"/"intrinsic" rather than "lower"). It's happened a bit unconsciously.

I guess I have an uncomfortableness with the inherent curiosity within myself to view such material. I've looked at these videos, pictures, sites...yet I can't explain why I wanted to view them. I started watching "Faces of Death", but shut it off after 15 minutes, not because I was nauseated, but because I realized that I couldn't understand why I was watching it. It wasn't entertaining, it wasn't educational and I wasn't really shocked...but yet I didn't like the feeling inside me that made me start watching. It's all rather hard to describe.

As well, I suppose my view has been tainted by seeing more than a few cases where people view this material (often in a group) with the intention being more "How gross can it get? How much can you take?" than anything else. That's not to say this is the sole use this material gets, just that's I've found that it's a common use.
posted by filmgoerjuan at 8:46 AM on October 6, 2002

The videos seem to have been taken down - does anyone have this cached?
posted by avocet at 3:05 PM on October 6, 2002

dear god......i just found it.

we'll see how this goes.
posted by avocet at 3:15 PM on October 6, 2002

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