The Dangers of Dissection

At 5:33 a.m. this morning, I learned about a company called Mopec, an organization founded in 1922. The firm sells all manner of American-made medical equipment and laboratory products to the pathology, histology, necropsy, autopsy, and mortuary industries. Among those products are several dissection tables, including a two-body rotating table; the two-body model calls for the two cadavers to weigh within twenty pounds of one another to ensure good table balance. Another product is a dissecting table with a dip tank (with a capacity of just under 120 gallons), advertised as “ideal for anatomy classes at teaching hospitals and universities.”

I came across the Mopec website while searching for something that, quite probably, does not exist: a psychic dissection table. But I looked for it anyway, just to be sure. The concept of a psychic dissection came to me as I considered what we might find if, instead of examining the physical aspects of a cadaver, we had the capacity to examine how experience and thought had shaped its life. What would we find if we were able to conduct an experiential, psychological, emotional autopsy? I suspect we’d find the sort of stuff that breaks hearts and triggers emotional meltdowns.

After coming up empty-handed in my search for psychic dissection tables, I switched gears, figuring I might inform my imagination by adapting my fanciful dissection in a  real-world setting. So, I looked for plain old dissection tables. That’s when I came across Mopec. During the course of skimming its website, along with a few others, my interest in psychic dissection waned; my curiosity about the equipment used in the “pathology, histology, necropsy, autopsy, and mortuary industries” waxed.

A fascinating discovery was the existence of several different autopsy saws, each with a different intended use. For example, there’s the Model 810 Stryker Autopsy Saw, “used for removing the cranial cap, making linear cuts or sectioning small bone specimens.” At $2419, it is not something one is apt to purchase on a whim; you have to be serious about autopsies to part with that kind of money. And where you have autopsy saws, you’re apt to have embalming sinks and cadaver storage racks. Of course, if you’re in the autopsy business, you’ll need scissors, forceps, knives, probes, and scalpels, as well as body bags. The variety of available body bags is truly stunning, as is their price range; from $14.68 to $249. The chalk calvaria elevator, 4-prong blunt flesh retractor, and double-ended section lifter are among a phalanx of other specialty tools created specifically for conducting autopsies (though, I suspect, some of the tools may be used in surgery, etc.). Fascinating!

I came across a dissecting kit for small animals at only $138.52 and a dissecting kit, student at only $103.96 (I assume the kit is not for dissecting students).

Specialty products come with premium prices. That’s true in virtually every industry and profession. Mass-market products can be mass-produced and, therefore, can be priced accordingly. But products that have limited markets, even if those markets are significant, just cost more. Mind you, most of the products sold by Mopec (not the supplies, but the equipment) are made from high-end stainless steel; that, in itself, means the prices will be high.

During my excursion into the world of cutting up dead bodies, it occurred to me that the terms autopsy and necropsy seem to be used interchangeably. In fact, a quick run to the dictionary suggests that is, in fact, the case. Why, then, I wonder are the two terms used in the same website to describe uses for different products?  I suppose I would have to contact Mopec to get an answer to that question. It’s not sufficiently important to me to make the inquiry, but I am curious about it.

While scurrying about, looking for answers about dissection equipment, it occurred to me that the fluids collected during the process of autopsies and such must be disposed of properly. I haven’t reached the point of learning just how that is done, but thinking of it caused me to jump to give thought to another specialty industry: wastewater/waste treatment. Naturally, I started exploring the equipment required to treat wastewater so as to make it at least safe, if not drinkable. And that little diversion led me to the realization that different types of wastewater/waste have different requirements for treatment. The specialization gets more and more complex.

To think, this wasted time that will never lead me to any answers of real consequence evolved from an imaginary exploration of psychic dissection. It’s a sure sign of madness, I tell you. This little brain of mine sometimes seems like it’s on high-dose uppers, even when it’s just French roast coffee doing its job.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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