Livin' on the MDedge

Step right up, folks, for a public dissection


The greatest autopsy on Earth?

The LOTME staff would like to apologize in advance. The following item contains historical facts.

P.T. Barnum is a rather controversial figure in American history. The greatest show on Earth was certainly popular in its day. However, Barnum got his start in 1835 by leasing a slave named Joyce Heth, an elderly Black woman who told vivid stories of caring for a young George Washington. He toured her around the country, advertising her as a 160-year-old woman who served as George Washington’s nanny. When Ms. Heth died the next year, Barnum sold tickets to the autopsy, charging the equivalent of $30 in today’s money.

Feet of a corpse in a morgue fstop123/E+

When a doctor announced that Ms. Heth was actually 75-80 when she died, it caused great controversy in the press and ruined Barnum’s career. Wait, no, that’s not right. The opposite, actually. He weathered the storm, built his famous circus, and never again committed a hoax.

It’s difficult to quantify how wrong publicly dissecting a person and charging people to see said dissection is, but that was almost 200 years ago. At the very least, we can say that such terrible behavior is firmly in the distant past.

Oh wait.

David Saunders, a 98-year-old veteran of World War II and the Korean War, donated his body to science. His body, however, was purchased by from a medical lab – with the buyer supposedly misleading the medical lab about its intentions, which was for use at the traveling Oddities and Curiosities Expo. Tickets went for up to $500 each to witness the public autopsy of Mr. Saunders’ body, which took place at a Marriott in Portland, Ore. It promised to be an exciting, all-day event from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a break for lunch, of course. You can’t have an autopsy without a catered lunch.

Another public autopsy event was scheduled in Seattle but canceled after news of the first event broke. Oh, and for that extra little kick, Mr. Saunders died from COVID-19, meaning that all those paying customers were exposed.

P.T. Barnum is probably rolling over in his grave right now. His autopsy tickets were a bargain.

Go ahead, have that soda before math

We should all know by now that sugary drinks are bad, even artificially sweetened ones. It might not always stop us from drinking them, but we know the deal. But what if sugary drinks like soda could be helpful for girls in school?

Teen girl drinking soda at her desk ©sjlocke/

You read that right. We said girls. A soda before class might have boys bouncing off the walls, but not girls. A recent study showed that not only was girls’ behavior unaffected by having a sugary drink, their math skills even improved.

Researchers analyzed the behavior of 4- to 6-year-old children before and after having a sugary drink. The sugar rush was actually calming for girls and helped them perform better with numerical skills, but the opposite was true for boys. “Our study is the first to provide large-scale experimental evidence on the impact of sugary drinks on preschool children. The results clearly indicate a causal impact of sugary drinks on children’s behavior and test scores,” Fritz Schiltz, PhD, said in a written statement.

This probably isn’t the green light to have as many sugary drinks as you want, but it might be interesting to see how your work is affected after a soda.


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