Trinity Professor Desmond O’Neill and physiotherapist Mark Sexton have spoken against Trinity’s decision to display the remains of Tipperary man Cornelius Magrath. The body, measuring seven foot and four inches, has been on display in the Anatomy School since 1760, after supposedly being stolen and dissected by Trinity medical students.
O’Neill claims that the decision to display the remains is “really out of step and out of date with the changes in ethics and ethics sensibilities,” as there was “no question of prior consent”.
While the body is not currently on public display, it is available to be viewed upon request, and was part of the public display in 2011 celebrating 300 years of medicine in Trinity.
Sexton said: “For bodies to be used in a medical context, there must be informed consent for the donation of body or body parts, and that consent must be given by the body donor who must be an adult.”
Trinity have defended their use of the remains on the grounds of scholarship. Furthermore, College stated there are no intentions for the remains to be buried or cremated, and that there have been no requests from members of kin for access to the remains.
The matter has been continuously debated following the announcement of the “Real Bodies” exhibition in Ireland, which uses the “unclaimed” remains of Chinese prisoners as part of their exhibit.
With protests of this exhibition on ethical grounds, many, including O’Neill, have claimed that it is hypocritical to oppose the exhibition while Trinity continues to display the remains of Magrath without his prior consent, or consent of his next of kin. O’Neill has raised the issue with the Board of Trinity, stating “I cannot see any useful form of scholarship” from the continued display of the remains.