Body Snatchers and Snitches

Eclectic etiquette for grave occasions [HUMOUR]

Ever since the theft of a single loaf of bread was deemed not serious enough for the gallows, they’ve stood empty… which means so are the university’s dissection tables. How are your students to learn anatomy with no body to teach them?

Decked out in your never-washed, bloodstained gown—a symbol of your professional pride and a finger to flapdoodle notions of antiseptic surgery—you’ve taught your students well. You’ve lectured tirelessly on the subject of proper forceps technique and the judicious use of aether (sometimes) and leeches (always, all the time, for every ailment).

And yet, the fact remains that while your students can recite which type of humours reside in each, they cannot tell the heart and spleen apart. You’d be forgiven for resorting to desperate measures to rectify this.

Body snatching—it’s dirty work, but someone’s gotta do it.

The bereaved

They’re burying ole Willie McTaggart, whom you know only too well. His passing truly was so unfortunate and completely unexpected. Just the other day, you were examining the pus leaking through his dressings, the sure sign of a healthy, healing wound, and now here we are. (It must have been the miasma that did him in.)

Although the temptation of a fresh cadaver is great, be sure to wait until after the funeral to retrieve him.

The (not quite) deceased

To err is human, to forgive divine. The incessant ringing of a bell attached to a ‘safety coffin’ suggests your colleague may have made a slight error in judgement when recommending this plot’s occupant for burial.

Acknowledge that you yourself have made mistakes—bloodletting was probably not the best way to treat that haemophiliac—so under no circumstance are you to embarrass a fellow man of medicine. Instead, sever the bit of rope attached to the bell, and come back in a couple of hours when you’re sure their oxygen has run out.


I know you believe in ghosts about as much as you believe in germ theory, so I’ll remain as silent as the grave on this one. (Yes, yes, if you can’t see it, it’s not real.)

Other professionals

While it’s beneath you to divest the deceased of their valuables—not to mention, it would be a felony to do so—you mustn’t begrudge others making an honest…ish living. That gibface lout, Simpson, has as much right to conduct his business at Greyfriars as you do.

Take pity on him; with that prominent brow and those close-set eyes, he was never going to amount to much more than a plunderer. Graciously allow him to abscond with McTaggart’s teeth—consider it an act of charity on your part.

Your fellow physicians

If Addams complains that you’re always the one holding the lantern and never do any of the digging, do a quick exchange. Now that you have the shovel, hit him upside the head with it—the impertinent wretch! Though perhaps next time, bring a janitor with you instead. (Two janitors when trying to make off with an acromegalic giant.)

Body acquired, it’s time for you to deliver a newborn or two—without washing your hands, no matter what some of your benighted colleagues insist upon. Be firm but polite when you tell them, ‘A gentleman’s hands are always clean!’

An interesting read

Freiberg, J. A. (2017). The mythos of laudable pus along with an explanation for its origin. Journal of community hospital internal medicine perspectives, 7(3), 196–198.

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