A (graphic) peek into what an autopsy looks like

Originally published at: A (graphic) peek into what an autopsy looks like | Boing Boing




Aren’t some on you guys Canadian? I ask because the videos never seem to work here.

That said, I used to work for the coroner service and autopsies are quite interesting. It might be in the video, but did you know they just put all your soft organs into a couple of plastic bags and that they just stuff it all back into your abdominal cavity when they stitch you up? Neato.


When I was in art school way back when one of the film and video art things we watched was a lurid 16mm-shot autopsy, no sound. It cleared the auditorium of most people pretty quickly. The most unsettling part for me was the peeling up of the face, but I stuck it out all the way through!


That would very likely be Stan Brakhage’s The Act of Seeing with One’s Own Eyes, the title being a literal translation of the word “autopsy.” I think it’s great, but it’s definitely not for everyone. (And doesn’t explain what’s going on at all. It’s completely silent.)

Here tis:


Elderly with UTI’s are not a good thing, especially men as they are less likely to be treated before it is too late. Take away: Let your elders know!


In 17 years as a newspaper reporter, I was honored to watch two autopsies - one a homicide victim, the other a routine death in which the family requested and paid for it.

Each time, the procedure was humbling, disorienting, and (oddly) only slightly revolting: I watched the remains of a human being - clearly no longer human, just tissue - be methodically cut apart by a coroner (who is carefully and monotonously narrating into a microphone the body part being removed and any discoveries of injury, illness, or deformity) as if they were disassembling a car.

There goes the carburetor. Now the oil filter and some gaskets must be removed before we reach the fuel pump.

Now for the valve cover (the skull cap, removed by first peeling away the face, then cutting it off with a bonesaw to reveal the brain) and suddenly all the no-longer-electrical mysteries that lie beneath it are revealed. It’s a brain - like you’ve seen in horror movies and cartoons a million times before - rippled, rubbery, gray, somehow small and no longer fearsome.

Watching this - it takes sometimes more than an hour and the smell triggers your panic nerves more than a bit - leaves you shaken, and honestly enlightened.

You gain a tremendous sense of perspective, a rush of love for life, and the deepest possible respect for the work that must be done to understand why someone has left this plane.

And you feel honored and maybe just a scoche closer to understanding what the hell life is.


Yes that was it. I couldn’t remember the title.

Watching it was… an experience.


As I recall, Gunther von Hagens (of plastination fame) was part of a four episode series on Channel 4 called Anatomy For Beginners that was a strange combination of serious scientific explanation and gruesome spectacle. Creepy yet still mesmerizing to watch.


Until you have it with the smells, it ain’t authentic. Trust me on this…



Sean Penn Wow GIF

We miss you, Vincent Schiavelli.


A little disappointed they blurred the more interesting bits. I wonder if it’s a privacy issue or they just think I didn’t really mean to click the content warning. I guess I’ll check out @ChuckV’s link when I have the time.

Out of curiosity, what exactly do you encounter? I assume any sort of pestilential wound or abscess will smell like they normally do and the general smell of death, but anything really surprising or otherwise unknown to most human experience?

Because that is a very interesting way to describe a smell.


It’s the smell of decaying flesh - the microbes that seem to appear as if by magic only on dead things, and thrive during decomposition.

I’ve noticed it at scenes where bodies were found after murder or mishap, and around roadkill. We once had a skunk crawl into the outside cleanout hatch for our chimney, and it took a while for us to figure out where the astonishing stench was coming from.

Once I opened the hatch, the smell of skunk + rot hit me in the face like a 2-by-4. 0/10 would not do again.


Where i went to med school, we frequently had to do autopsies on bodies recovered from the river. Sometimes, after some time in the river. The “perfume” was indescribable. But there were others much worse, usually involving extensive necrosis, large abscesses and gangrenous limbs. Medicine can be gross.


Interesting, but I could have done without the first 12 minutes where literally nothing happens.

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