A is for Autopsy . . . C is for Cadaver: High School Students Taken to Watch Another Student’s Autopsy

200px-cadaver_dissection_table_-_long_shotWaterford Kettering High School in Michigan has a curious concept of interesting learning experiences. A teacher reportedly took a class to see an autopsy of a 14-year-old girl from the Waterford Kettering middle school.

After the parents of the dead girl objected, medical examiner’s office has canceled public school tours and Mike Zehnder, the county’s director of public services, says it was “a poor decision.” A poor decision? Buying whole milk rather than two percent milk is a “poor decision.” Taking a class of kids to see another kid from their school district cut up falls into something more serious like “a colossally stupid act reserved for the mentally incompetent” category. Zehnder added “It was just an unfortunate situation.” This may be the king of the understatement. Zehnder no doubt described the Hindenburg disaster as “an unfortunate event involving a heating element.”

What most concerns me is that this colossally stupid act was committed not only by the coroner’s office (which may have limited experience with live people) but by the teachers who should be disciplined for allowing the kids to participate in such a trip. That is not going to happen. Rhonda Lessel, a Waterford School District spokeswoman, said the teacher talked to her class beforehand and asked whether the group wanted to continue. The school district appears to believe that such decision should be made by 11th and 12th graders as a group where a student will look like a wimp if he or she wants to go home. Lessel added “I believe the teacher did what she thought was in the best interest of the students.” And she was wrong . . . right? I think a really learning experience would be to watch a teacher’s disciplinary hearing and suspension.

The school district makes it sound like it was the kids’ fault not to ask to go home and not a teacher who thought it would be interesting to watch a student from the school cut open. They will be fortunate not to be sued for intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress. I saw my first autopsy in law school and it was pretty traumatic. I still find them hard to watch. The coroner however says that it had a schedule filled with high school classes. Putting aside the question of whether this is appropriate for 11th graders, it is grossly negligent to allow students to watch an autopsy of a child from their own school for obvious reasons.

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5 thoughts on “A is for Autopsy . . . C is for Cadaver: High School Students Taken to Watch Another Student’s Autopsy”

  1. FYI: You made some mistakes. The student being autopsied was not from the same school, she went to Crary Middle School. Your bigger mistake was in suggesting suspension for the teacher involved. What you need to realize is that nobody forced anybody to do anything. This trip was never required, and nobody was ever looked as as “a wimp” if they did not want to go. I know this teacher, and I am disgusted that you would say that she “thought it would be interesting to watch a student from the school get cut open.” Trust me, she would never want that. She simply continued the tradition of taking students on an educational trip. She discussed it with her classes, mainly made up of legal adults who can make their own decisions, and if they did not want to go, all they had to do was say so.

    I am amazed that an educated person such as yourself can be so disgustingly ignorant. Open your mind a little and try to be more accepting of others and their decisions.

  2. This is an outrageous act of stupidity that is even worse than Blago’s acts of stupidity in Chicago. I have to admit that this type of event might be unreasonable even if the deceased child was from another school.

  3. I’m speechless. JT correctly nailed down the bulk of the outrage. This is pretty incomprehensible.

  4. Good catch, Jonathan…

    This really is just as you’ve stated: “a colossally stupid act reserved for the mentally incompetent.” I’d only add (to “mentally incompentent”) the descriptor of “morally neutered.”

    The idea that a high school would send students to view an autopsy of any sort, let alone of one who may have been known to those students, is beyond outrageous.

    The school district’s entire decision-making apparatus is implicated here, as you’ve noted… and one is left to wonder how the really tough decisions might have faired in such hands…. or might yet in the future. I’m just waiting for the ‘usual suspects’ to crawl out of the woodwork screaming that this is just a small part of what one should expect when prayer was banished from the public schools.

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