Prior to the end of the eighteenth century, there was little social conflict on the question of how one should deal with dead bodies, so the law had little impact on the treatment of cadavers. Everyone agreed that protocol was to dispose of the bodies with dignity. In nineteenth-century England, the situation changed. The shortage of cadavers for medical applications led to the illegal disinterment of corpses by “resurrectionists” and even to murder to acquire bodies for sale to medical schools and practitioners. The Anatomy Act of 1832 terminated these practices, since the act provided for the orderly donation of bodies to medical schools by those in lawful custody.

Although the successful transplantation of human bones began in 1878, it was only when the process of ...

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