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Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
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Stiff Quotes (showing 1-30 of 39)
“The way I see it, being dead is not terribly far off from being on a cruise ship. Most of your time is spent lying on your back. The brain has shut down. The flesh begins to soften. Nothing much new happens, and nothing is expected of you. ”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“It is astounding to me, and achingly sad, that with eighty thousand people on the waiting list for donated hearts and livers and kidneys, with sixteen a day dying there on that list, that more then half of the people in the position H's family was in will say no, will choose to burn those organs or let them rot. We abide the surgeon's scalpel to save our own lives, out loved ones' lives, but not to save a stranger's life. H has no heart, but heartless is the last thing you'd call her.”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“The human head is of the same approximate size and weight as a roaster chicken. I have never before had occasion to make the comparison, for never before today have I seen a head in a roasting pan.”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“We are biology. We are reminded of this at the beginning and the end, at birth and at death. In between we do what we can to forget.”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“Death. It doesn't have to be boring.”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“Here is the secret to surviving one of these [airplane] crashes: Be male. In a 1970 Civil Aeromedical institute study of three crashes involving emergency evacuations, the most prominent factor influencing survival was gender (followed closely by proximity to exit). Adult males were by far the most likely to get out alive. Why? Presumably because they pushed everyone else out of the way.”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“You are a person and then you cease to be a person, and a cadaver takes your place.”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“Many people will find this book disrespectful. There is nothing amusing about being dead, they will say. Ah, but there is.”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
tags: death
“You do not question an author who appears on the title page as "T.V.N. Persaud, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc., F.R.C.Path. (Lond.), F.F.Path. (R.C.P.I.), F.A.C.O.G.”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
tags: humor
“Sharing a room with a cadaver is only mildly different from being in a room alone.
They are the same sort of company as people across from you on subways or in airport lounges, there but not there. Your eyes keep going back to them, for lack of anything more interesting to look at, and then you feel bad for staring.”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“One young woman's tribute describes unwrapping her cadaver's hands and being brought up short by the realization that the nails were painted pink. "The pictures in the anatomy atlas did not show nail polish", she wrote. "Did you choose the color? Did you think that I would see it? I wanted to tell you about the inside of your hands. I want you to know you are always there when I see patients. When I palpate an abdomen, yours are the organs I imagine. When I listen to a heart, I recall holding your heart.”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“I walk up and down the rows. The heads look like rubber halloween masks. They also look like human heads, but my brain has no precedent for human heads on tables or in roasting pans or anywhere other than on top of a human bodies, and so I think it has chosen to interpret the sight in a more comforting manner. - Here we are at the rubber mask factory. Look at the nice men and woman working on the masks.”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“There wasn't an anhydrous lacrimal gland in the house, writes the author in all seriousness describing a memorial service for a medical school's cadavers.”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“Here's the other thing I think about. It makes little sense to try to control what happens to your remains when you are no longer around to reap the joys or benefits of that control. People who make elaborate requests concerning disposition of their bodies are probably people who have trouble with the concept of not existing. [...] I imagine it is a symptom of the fear, the dread, of being gone, of the refusal to accept that you no longer control, or even participate in, anything that happens on earth. I spoke about this with funeral director Kevin McCabe, who believes that decisions concerning the disposition of a body should be mad by the survivors, not the dead. "It's non of their business what happens to them whey the die," he said to me. While I wouldn't go that far, I do understand what he was getting at: that the survivors shouldn't have to do something they're uncomfortable with or ethically opposed to. Mourning and moving on are hard enough. Why add to the burden? If someone wants to arrange a balloon launch of the deceased's ashes into inner space, that's fine. But if it is burdensome or troubling for any reason, then perhaps they shouldn't have to.”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“The point is that no matter what you choose to do with your body when you die, it won't, ultimately, be very appealing. If you are inclined to donate yourself to science, you should not let images of dissection or dismemberment put you off. They are no more or less gruesome, in my opinion, than ordinary decay or the sewing shut of your jaws via your nostrils for a funeral viewing.”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“There, just beyond his open palm, was our mother’s face. I wasn’t expecting it. We hadn’t requested a viewing, and the memorial service was closed-coffin. We got it anyway. They’d shampooed and waved her hair and made up her face. They’d done a great job, but I felt taken, as if we’d asked for the basic carwash and they’d gone ahead and detailed her. Hey, I wanted to say, we didn’t order this. But of course I said nothing. Death makes us helplessly polite.”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“I agree with Dr. Makris. Does that mean I would let someone blow up my dead foot to help save the feet of NATO land mine clearers? It does. And would I let someone shoot my dead face with a nonlethal projectile to help prevent accidental fatalities? I suppose I would. What wouldn't I let someone do to my remains? I can think of only one experiment I know of that, were I a cadaver, I wouldn't want anything to do with. This particular experiment wasn't done in the name of science or education or safer cars or better-protected soldiers. It was done in the name of religion.”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“It's the reason we say "pork" and "beef" instead of "pig" and "cow." Dissection and surgical instruction, like meat-eating, require a carefully maintained set of illusions and denial.”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“Entomologists have a name for young flies, but it is an ugly name, an insult. Let's not use the word "maggot." Let's use a pretty word. Let's use "hacienda.”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“Not that there's anything wrong with just lying around on your back.
In it's way, rotting is interesting too, as we will see.
It's just that there are other ways to spend your time as a cadaver.”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“Ka was the essence of teh person: spirit, intelligence, feelings and passions, humor, grudges, annoying television theme songs, all the things that make a person a person and not a nematode.”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“With the rise of classical Greece, the soul debate evolved into the more familiar heart-versus-brain, the liver having been demoted to an accessory role. We are fortunate that this is so, for we would otherwise have been faced with Celine Dion singing "My Liver Belongs to You" and movie houses playing The Liver Is a Lonely Hunter. Every Spanish love song that contains the word corazon, which is all of them, would contain the somewhat less lilting higado, and bumper stickers would proclaim, "I [liver symbol] my Pekingese.”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“I like the term "decedent." It's as though the man weren't dead, but merely involved in some sort of protracted legal dispute. For evident reasons, mortuary science is awash with euphemisms. "Don't say stiff, corpse, cadaver," scolds The Principles and Practice of Embalming. "Say decedent, remains or Mr. Blank. Don't say 'keep.' Say 'maintain preservation.'…"Wrinkles are "acquired facial markings." Decomposed brain that filters down through a damaged skull and bubbles out the nose is "frothy purge.”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“there is a photograph of zugibe and one of his volunteers in the aforementioned sindon article. zugibe is dressed in a knee-length white lab coat and is shown adjusting one of the vital sign leads affixed to the man's chest. the cross reaches almost to the ceiling, towering over zugibe and his bank of medical monitors. the volunteer is naked except for a pair of gym shorts and a hearty mustache. he wears the unconcerned, mildly zoned-out expression of a person waiting at a bus stop. neither man appears to have been self-conscious about being photographed this way. i think that when you get yourself down deep into a project like this, you lose sight of how odd you must appear to the rest of the world.”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“The researchers concluded that during intercourse in the missionary position, the penis “has the shape of a boomerang.”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“For me, hands are hard." She looks up from what she's doing. "Because you're holding this disconnected hand, and it's holding you back." Cadavers occasionally effect a sort of accidental humanness that catches the medical professional off guard. I once spoke to an anatomy student who described a moment in the lab when she realized that the cadaver's arm was around her waist. It becomes difficult, under circumstances such as these, to retain one's clinical remove.”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“There wasn't an anhydrous lacrimal gland in the room...”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“A patient on the way to surgery travels at twice the speed of a patient on the way to the morgue. Gurneys that ferry the living through hospital corridors move forward in an aura of purpose and push, flanked by caregivers with long strides and set faces, steadying IVs, pumping ambu bags, barreling into double doors. A gurney with a cadaver commands no urgency. It is wheeled by a single person, calmly and with little notice, like a shopping cart(167).”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“Unlike real tissue, human tissue simulant doesn’t snap back: The cavity remains, allowing ballistics types to judge, and preserve a record of, a bullet’s performance. Plus, you don’t need to autopsy a block of human tissue simulant; because it’s clear, you just walk up to it after you’ve shot it and take a look at the damage. Following which, you can take it home, eat it, and enjoy stronger, healthier nails in thirty days.”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“There is a passage in the Buddhist Sutra on Mindfulness called the Nine Cemetery Contemplations. Apprentice monks are instructed to meditate on a series of decomposing bodies in the charnel ground, starting with a body “swollen and blue and festering,” progressing to one “being eaten by…different kinds of worms,” and moving on to a skeleton, “without flesh and blood, held together by the tendons.” The monks were told to keep meditating until they were calm and a smile appeared on their faces.”
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

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