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Author Topic: Necropsy, examination after death  (Read 8824 times)
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Kelancey the Green
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« on: 16 June 2012, 22:23:50 »

Overview
Necropsy is a surgical procedure done on a corpse of a person for the sake of learning the circumstances of their death. This particular entry in the Compendium details necropsy practices in the Santharian Kingdom. Practices elsewhere, such as the North and Nybelmar, are not yet detailed. Traditionally, necropsies performed in the Santharian kingdom are done by the White Nehtorian sect or clergy of the goddess Queprur. The intent is not to restore life, of course, but to ascertain the cause of that person's death, and any other health problems that person suffered from.  This is enshrouded in dilemma, for not all communities allow necropsies; even in those that do, many families prefer their dear departed loved one not to undergo this disfiguring procedure.

A necropsy involves opening and examining the major cavities of the body--skull, chest, belly--looking for any signs of illness or disease that may have caused the death of the departed. Necropsy as a field of study is relatively recent, but the practice has been passed down among healers for hundreds of years.  Chirurgeons on the whole do not participate in necropsies, because this is thought to curse their practice of surgery with death or adverse outcomes. In some of the more superstitious regions of Santharia, necropsies are akin to dark necromantic practices, but that doesn't stop body snatchers from stealing fresh corpses for curious mages or scholars.


Purpose
At the center of the examination is a hypothesis: Why did this person die?  Although healers are supposed to remain completely objective in any examination, even after the person's death, it often helps to know what to look for.  For example, in the instance of tumors, a necropsy may be the only way to be absolutely sure of the presence of a tumor, and hence the cause of death.  On the flip side of the token, there is no substitute for thoroughness.  There is every reason to continue searching for the truth behind a person's illness, even after death.  Even if one fervently believes that they know that a crushing head wound caused a person's death, that person ought to investigate to exclude other proximal causes of death:  What if that person actually had a parasite in their gut which would have caused their death with or without the head wound?


Methods, Procedure
The method of necropsy is adequately described in the open letter which follows.  This is a depiction of a particularly gruesome necropsy, and it should be noted that the conditions and manner of doing a necropsy vary depending on the circumstances of death and who is doing the examining. The author of the letter is unknown, though the penmanship appears to be fairly recent.

The following recollection still sends a chill through my spine, 3 years after the events which altered my mind forever after.  This is my recounting of the first and only necropsy I personally witnessed. Although the nameless characters performed the examination with precision and care, the grisly nature of the thing and the defilement of a human body froze my blood on that fated night.

On a particularly lugubrious night in Passing Clouds, I had been invited to witness the macabre defilement of one murderer who was recently hanged by the neck for his crimes.  The noose still hung from the gallows where his atonement had been executed, swinging ominously in the haunted night wind.  He was obviously denied a burial in consecrated ground, due to the heinous atrocities he committed in life.  And now, bereft of any noble or redeeming qualities which might otherwise have spared him such a cruel fate, he was about to serve a more diabolical purpose in death.

Rajarg, my confidant who had invited me to this grisly affair, seemed strangely calm, even unaffected by the ghastly happenings that night.  Of the nature of the ordeal we were to witness, he was peculiarly tight-lipped, saying only that this 'enlightening' experience would tap into a wealth of knowledge largely untouched by quotidian academicians and humdrum healers.  This would open portals to unseen awareness of one man's true essence, he assured me, though his words did little to assuage the rising tide of bile in my throat.

At once, three grotesque, cloaked figures, their faces obscured behind wax masks, gesticulated and chirped bizarre ululations, meaning for us to follow them into a dark charnel.  The must of Queprur's breath overcame me, but after a few moments I recomposed myself and took in my surroundings. We five congregated in a Cyclopean chamber, amidst pillars of stone cut into seemingly impossible angles and shapes.  My vision was overwhelmed when my wandering eyes came to rest on the subject of tonight's cabal--the body of the murderer laid callously upon a cold slab of roughly-hewn stone.

The body was laid mouth up upon the stone slab, the latter being pierced at all sides by holes, presumably to allow seepage of bodily fluids onto the bare dirt floor. One of the cloaked figures opened a leather satchel to produce a hand saw, and he then labored to cleave open the dead man's skull with myriad decussations of skin and bone.

The smallest of the three figures stepped forward, and with precision evacuated the brain and eyes from their cradle. These he weighed carefully, then set aside in urns with yellowish fluid which I took to be embalming fluid.

The largest of the three figures then came forth, wielding a vicious dagger or some such instrument, and cleaved into the dead man's chest in the form of a 'Y'.  Starting at the right bullshead muscle, he severed skin and muscle down to the midline of the breastplate muscles. He made the same laceration from the left bullshead muscle to between the breastplate muscles. A final skive from between the breastplates down to the top of the escutcheon completed the 'Y', and he reflected the flaps of skin and muscle away from the dead man's torso.

The first man, though I use the term 'man' loosely, took his turn now, applying the bone saw once more to splay open the breastbone and ribcage. Then the second man plied his skill, evacuating the mumbles from inside the chest and belly. The heart, he rinsed thoroughly with hot water, then rubbed with some cerulean coloured salt and laid aside in a metal pan. The lungs were also scooped out with feverish attention to not disturb the organs' integrity. These were also rinsed with water, then placed in a second urn with Lythbe fluid. The liver, lights, and bilewell were extracted meticulously, weighed carefully, and sliced into thick, grainy-appearing layers, then placed into a third urn with what I am calling embalming fluid, for want of a better descriptor.

The other innards were similarly disgorged with unnerving care, and preserved each in its unique way. Then the third man, with help from the first two, turned the body over looking mouth down on the stone slab.  He proceeded to carve an 'I' in the dead man's back, across from one bullshead muscle to the other, down the midline along the line of spinal bones, and across from one flank to the other. With imperious gestures, he reflected the flaps of skin and muscle away from the back as he'd done on the chest and belly.

The first man sawed through the bones of the spine to examine the spinal fiber itself. This was removed, weighed, and placed in an urn. The hygronki and wellspring of choler were also removed and stored in separate urns.  By this time, I had witnessed enough horror such that I could not bear to behold any further disruption or desecration. Without meaning to, I let out a stifled scream, and fled the crypt as fast as a crazed corbie fleeing the Goddess of Death.

My mind is warped, confounded, having witnessed the events of that night.  To this day, the lifeless, crystalline eyes of the dead man haunt my waking thoughts and infiltrate my dreams.  My blood turns cold to reflect upon that part of my innocence sacrificed, nay, vivisected by the demonic clutches of those eldritch hands.  For the price I have paid to attain this perverse knowledge, I pray that the gods are merciful and look gently upon my soul.



History, Lore
Typically, a cleric of Queprur presides over the necropsy. Their role consists of consecrating the body, followed by observing the necropsy to ensure that the dignity of the departed is respected. The Queprurians have an affinity for all things related to death, thus they perform the proper blessings and rites so that the Scythe Goddess might tolerate the necropsy. In the case of a suspected murder victim, the accepted method is for the cleric to perform the entire necropsy him or herself, allowing for more application of their unique skill set. They may look for signs of envenomation, evil magic, corruption of the bodily constituents, and so on.

Nyermersys, the City of Death, witnessed the first widespread use of necropsy in recorded history. When the Plague of 602 b.S. broke out, the clerics of Queprur had to perform necropsies after several similar deaths occurred to ascertain the cause of death. The Bonehouse of the Plague saw many, perhaps more than fifty, necropsies performed over a 3-month span. Then, the town had to be sealed to prevent the disease from spreading. For this reason, the Bonehouse is considered the birthplace of the modern necropsy.

Advocates of necropsy largely consist of White Nehtorians who are versed in the procedure, plus a few scholars who are familiar with practices to ensure the sanctity of the bodies of the deceased. Bolger the Grey, a White Nehtorian in New-Santhala and recent advocate of necropsy, has stated, "I have performed many such procedures, perhaps over a hundred.  I have not once seen or heard evidence that I have defiled a body nor dishonored the memory of anyone.  What I have seen and learned is a wealth of knowledge which would not be otherwise obtainable except by examination of people's remains."  Felina Esai of the Quaelhoirhim, well-acquainted with New-Santhala and the White Nehtorian practices, has warned against abuse of necropsy, only performing examination of the dead in case of obscure cause of death or other extenuating circumstances.  A prominent fire mage of Ximax, Xas'daktlor, has made efforts to dispel concern about necropsy as a legitimate study of cause of death, saying, "To know the nature of a thing, often we must analyze that thing at its very core.  One would not dare consider him or herself an expert in myrmexes without having dissected a few to see their inner workings.  Similarly, we cannot consider a healer to be any sort of specialist in healing arts unless they have studied the inner workings of the body, even after the breath of life has gone out of the body."    Clerics of Queprur maintain that, so long as the body is not desecrated and proper respect is paid, a soul may still be at rest, even after necropsy is performed on a person's remains.  Seyellan priests hold the opinion that knowledge is virtue, and that necropsy does not disturb the path of a person's soul after death.

Yet, there are those who oppose the practice of necropsy for various reasons. Xuster, a water mage of Ximax, compels clerics and healers alike to avoid any contact with dead bodies.  Citing similarities between necropsy and necromancy, he opines that both are manipulation of the dead in ways not intended by the gods.  Priests of Urtengor assert that any tampering with the construction of the gods is desecration of a body and thus dishonoring the posterity of that person.  Even more so, dwarves bodies are known to slowly petrify after death, which is taken as evidence that bodies of the dead should not be tampered with.  Eyashan clerics believe that, once the breath of life has gone out of a person's body, there is no good reason for performing surgical procedures on that person.
« Last Edit: 04 August 2012, 02:07:06 by Artimidor Federkiel » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: 17 June 2012, 23:27:22 »



Hey Kelly, some quick notes on a Sunday afternoon:

Is it allowed in Santharia, or elsewhere, or not, and if not, why not?
Maybe specify who does it, in which places it is practiced etc.

There are certainly differences between the races, places etc. Maybe you should just say (with all your afflictions), this is somethingwhich concerns mostly the human society in Southern Sarvonia. That would life make much easier^^:)

It is quite some time  that I read this commonly known book from Noah Gordon: The Physician. I have been shocked then to learn, that opening the body was forbidden for quite some time in medieval Europe and that he had to travel in the east to learn something about it. That corpses were stolen to open them and learn about them. Our society seems a bit more advanced, but I think there is a problematic you might want to integrate to a certain amount.

Btw, did I say I appreciate and see the time you put in this? :D
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« Reply #2 on: 18 June 2012, 09:53:11 »

Backing you up on Urtengor there, Kelancy.  Dwarves themselves cannot have necropsies performed as the body slowly turns to stone - hence the science of anatomy must not be as advanced (I'm not even going to go near vivisection!) among the Thergerim.   I would suspect that attitude about the flesh would carry over even to human priests of Urtengor/TrumBaroll.   
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« Reply #3 on: 18 June 2012, 23:00:25 »

Seems very modern to me, especially the methods. Also wouldn't the White Nehtorians be a good source of knowledge on this subject?
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« Reply #4 on: 19 June 2012, 01:43:04 »

I agree that questions should be raised on the matter if and to what extent necropsy is actually a tolerated practice. Just like necromancy is considered a forbidden magical art more or less banned by the Ximaxian Academy.

Medieval human beliefs like the Twelvern faith might hold on to the importance of the rites of burying bodies untouched for the one or the other reason, and opening bodies could be seen as a sacrilege (though I admit we don't have that elaborated on site). Elves on the other hand are known to burn bodies and give the ashes to the wind, apparently because the body doesn't have the same meaning as for humans.

So I would definitely vote to put some controversy in there, and I think you already added a few nice things in this regard, Kelancey. Maybe necropsy could be not that common and would be performed by priests of Queprur or under their supervision, and basically unofficially, a tolerated secret or something. The Queprurians could have an affinity to deal with all things related to death, so they might be the ones who think that with the proper blessings, rites etc. Queprur might tolerate a necropsy.
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« Reply #5 on: 19 June 2012, 03:01:51 »

Hmm, yes, I definitely like the idea, that only the priests of Queprur may open a dead body. And even then - it is not talked about that subject. Would add a lot of mystery to them. Some chirugs (?) though might want to do it nevertheless and search for the dead bodies of not missed persons, might look for executed people, buried outside the graveyards etc..  

Maybe I should finish one of my half-done entries ..  grin

I'm still thinking about what the other Santharian gods might have for an opinion though.
« Last Edit: 19 June 2012, 03:03:31 by Ta'lia of the Seven Jewels » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: 19 June 2012, 10:40:46 »

 shocked  Whoa, a lot of responses!  Thanks to everyone who has graciously contributed to the discussion.

I don't know where to start to respond, so I'll arbitrarily start here:  I like the idea of Queprurian priests overseeing necropsies, it adds a legitimate feel to the procedure.

I was thinking mostly humans and elves would do necropsies...at that, mostly humans, and of those, almost exclusively White Nehtorians under some aegis of a supervising authority.

The biggest need I see for having necropsies at all is that it goes hand-in-hand with anatomy tutorials.  The best way to learn anatomy is by direct observation of the anatomy.

The technique for necropsy actually is ancient, in terms of our Earth.  The ancient Egyptians did wonderful things to advance our knowledge of mummification and, hence, study of the internal organs after death.

Forgive me for any questions or concerns I haven't addressed here, I'm scatterbrained and sometimes prone to, well, missing points.  :)
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« Reply #7 on: 21 June 2012, 16:23:44 »

Quote
Dun'tlar, fire mage of Ximax
This is mostly nitpicking, but unless you have a good reason for it to be there, I think it's probably best to drop the apostrophe from the name.  Gratuitous apostrophes are one of the more annoying fantasy cliches, and don't really help with making things look more realistic. 

That said, I like that you seem to be inventing your own Ximaxian mages.  While it's good to reference existing material, Ximax is also old enough that it should probably have lots of people who are notable in one way or another, so it's nice to see more such people being created.  I assume you'll be adding more details about their opinions in future edits? 
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« Reply #8 on: 21 June 2012, 23:06:13 »

IMO dead bodies and necropsy practices would be of interest to Ximaxian mages for purposes of animation (necromancy).

Fire mages practicing the animation property (catching the remnant "fires of life") would be keen to know how the mechanics of a corpse in order to properly make it move and perform tasks.

Earth mages also could animate given the abundance of earth ounia in a corpse.

Water mages would freeze whatever remaining water remains in a corpse (or freeze it) for animation.

Wind mages don't necessarily animate physical corpses, but the "spirit".
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« Reply #9 on: 21 June 2012, 23:25:49 »

Well, necromancy is forbidden at Ximax, as far as I know.  But there could be other reasons for them to be interested too.  One I can think of is healing magic.  Knowledge of anatomy, I think, would lead to a better understanding of how and where various types of healing spells could be applied, thus making them more effective. 
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« Reply #10 on: 21 June 2012, 23:38:45 »

Well....

The Everbright cult practices necromancy fire animation, but likely deep in the Volkek-Oshra caverns and likely something of a hush hush subject among the staff at the Fire Tower. Kinda annoyed at myself now for not mentioning that in the Anilya entry  rolleyes

As for healing! Corpses are hardened shells of former people and would make great practice for earth mages learning how to manipulate the earth ounia in bones and desiccated flesh to heal open wounds and mend broken bones.
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No, I would not want to live in a world without dragons, as I would not want to live in a world without magic, for that is a world without mystery, and that is a world without faith. And that, I fear, for any reasoning, conscious being, would be the cruelest trick of all.
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« Reply #11 on: 22 June 2012, 00:03:36 »

This may sound unsavory for some people, but here's my personal experience:

I've actually only attended 2 autopsies--great learning opportunities, both of them.
I learned how to place an endotracheal tube, the tube to intubate someone for mechanical ventilation, by practicing on a couple of people who were recently deceased and had no immediate family.  Rude, perhaps, but that's really the way medicine is learned.
Furthermore, I would much rather that any surgeon or healer have practiced A LOT on corpses to learn the human anatomy, before he or she cuts into me.  There's only so much you can accomplish by cutting into and then sewing up dead chickens.
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« Reply #12 on: 22 June 2012, 05:31:06 »

Okay, I think I'm ready for editorial comments, opinions, critique, and so on!
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« Reply #13 on: 22 June 2012, 07:21:19 »

It's a bit late, therefore only a few comments:

I would like to propose to leave the methods out, at least such a detailed description. It is not necessary to know it. It is nothing new, could be found in any other book also. Or did I miss something Santharian specific?

I hoped that only Queprur's priests would be allowed to perform them, not to just overlook them. I don't thinkt, that would go well with how they see themselves.

I don't think either, that healers - priests of Nehtor in general, nor the White Dalorians, will do this voluntarily. They are healers and work with the living body. To learn something of the body and how it looks like inside is a difficult thing though, I agree. Maybe a few have learned by the priests of Queprur, the others just have to learn by watching their teachers work with living people?

Your approach has a very modern feeling to me. I know, that the Inkas cut a hole in the skull and the patient survived, but somehow it doesn't feel right for me.

But that are just my two sans, let see , what others say.
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« Reply #14 on: 25 June 2012, 01:20:36 »

First, thank you, Talia, for your response.

I would actually rather that Dalorins be the ones doing the necropsies, and I'll use argument by analogy to describe why I believe so.

A farmer who has a cow giving birth might ask a priest of Arvins to pray for a healthy delivery, but the actual birth would likely be attended by an expert in animal husbandry.  A sailor embarking on a rough ocean voyage might ask a priest of Baveras to pray for safe passage, but she would likely turn to a seasoned sea captain to navigate the ocean.  An alchemist might have a priest of Nehtor bless his undertaking for a successful invention, but the alchemist is still responsible for creating a new recipe.

In this same way, a priest of Queprur might bless a necropsy to ensure that proper respect is paid to the recently deceased, but an expert in human anatomy would likely be better suited to actually perform the necropsy.  Does this make sense?

If the description of the procedure seems graphic or modern, this is actually what has been undertaken for autopsies for hundreds of years in our world.  I just think this procedure is vital to advance the knowledge about diseases and causes of death in Santharia.  Is there a way to make it more Santharian, less like real world autopsy?
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