Journal article

'How dead dead the dead are': sensing the science of death

Philomena Horsley

QUALITATIVE RESEARCH | SAGE PUBLICATIONS LTD | Published : 2012

Abstract

This article focuses on two revelatory moments I experienced during hospital-based fieldwork. The first, involving a microscope, offered me a glimpse into the sensory intellectuality that attracts some doctors to the specialty of anatomical pathology. The second occurred as I gazed into an emptied human skull. This experience generated a gestalt-shift of insight into the capacity of pathologists to work with human remains. Both events opened a doorway to the sequestered science of death – the macroscopy and microscopy upon which anatomical pathology is built – and the enervating emotions that support the doctors who ‘mutilate’ the dead during autopsy.