February 24, 2011
Recycle: Cans, Bottles…. and Body Parts?
“Morality is contraband in war”, as quoted by Mohandas Gandhi, showcases how our morality as humans is constantly challenged by war. The act of warfare and killing humans has been a part of mankind’s existence since the invention of the gun itself. As time moved forward, and new discovers were made, the variety and caliber of these weapons began to develop. With each passing decade and through World Wars, firearms were becoming more and more lethal. Scientists were being hired to invent and produce weaponry that would kill a man in his tracks, while being more light weight and more mechanically sound. In order to do this though, they had to run many tests, some of which utilized cadavers, or dead human parts, in these top secret ballistics experiments. Mary Roach, author of “The Cadaver Who Joined the Army”, sheds some light on the usage of these human bodies for firearm research, and questions the reader on the morality and caliber of the situation. There definitely is a conflict of interest when it comes to the use of cadavers and dead bodies in general. Francis Fukuyama, author of “Human Dignity”, continues to speak on human morality, and its bigger picture of Factor X, with in each individual. Although the concept of using dead human parts to conduct and experiment may seem gruesome, they are used for strong reasons and the technology we have now, would not be, had it not been for cadavers. In my opinion, the use of cadavers for experimentation should be permitted if the person gave consent of their body to be utilized. Additionally, cadavers allow researchers to see exact results of impact on human flesh, and help benefit warfare and medical knowledge everywhere.
The concept of the cadaver has been around for some time now and has helped reach new heights in advancement of firearms. In her essay, Mary Roach discusses how the United States was not the only country using this type of weaponry research, she quotes “the French army has been firing into dead bodies since 1800, while the Germans would prop up their victims at battlefield distances, and even the typically neutral Swiss fired at full body cadavers to investigate bullet impact” (348). So it’s not just America that had this idea, everyone did. Militaries understood that since the bodies were going to be left out to rot anyways, they might as well put them to use. They placed the cadavers out in the range and shot at them because it allowed for an excellent learning and experimentation platform. By firing into human flesh, it provided a way to test not only accuracy, but also impact of certain bullets, and damage done to the body on contact. With this vital information, new bullet designs, gun designs, and military tactics could be created and put to use. However, these were still parts of what used to be a live human being, so there lies a matter of right or wrong when it comes to using them.
One of the major conflictions in the topic of cadavers is the opinion of morality. On one side of the argument, people argue that using cadavers is immoral, and that the uses of bodies are a “violation of their dignity” (Roach 357). However, the utilization of cadavers exceedingly outweighs the bad image it is receiving. The hardest part for people to get over is the simple fact that the cadaver used to be a part of a living breathing human being. When put down on paper, being used as a human target is not much more different than donating your organs to medical research. In order to become an organ donor, you must sign a consent form, saying you legally donate your organs after death. Cadavers are acquired the same way. In an interview between Colonel Baker and Mary Roach, he mentions that “as long as you have informed consent – signed agreement from donor stating that he has willed his body to research- it would seem suitable to practice” (356). If a person willingly donates...
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