The fictional story below is meant as a modern-day parable, inspired in part by a newsletter I just received from Christian Associates of Southwestern Pennsylvania and in part by the billboards popping up around town advertising the exhibit “Bodies” at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh. I must disagree with the folks at CASP… here’s why…
The middle-aged widower walked slowly home from work. He thought ahead to another night alone, missing his wife, eating a simple meal in front of the TV before turning in for a good night’s sleep. Tired… he felt so tired lately. He’d even forgotten to take his wallet to work with him today and had had to borrow $5 just to eat lunch.
Suddenly the chest pains came. In a moment he was gone. His body fell by the side of the road.
A shopkeeper across the street saw him fall and ran to help. When he reached the stranger’s side he realized immediately there was nothing to be done. He also knew the corrupt coroner in the small town had very strange habits and could not be trusted with an unidentified corpse. Taking compassion on the stranger, he buried the body quietly in a nearby field, said a prayer over the place where he lay, and went home.
A minor town official watched all this from the shadows nearby. He thought to himself: “I know a man in the big city who will pay a lot of money for a clean, fresh body like that. I’ll wait till the shopkeeper leaves, then dig up the body and take it to him. I can give my wife that Vegas vacation she’s always wanted”.
And so he did. Entering a dark room off a back alley, he traded the stranger’s body for a stack of bills. Then he and his wife enjoyed the show out in Las Vegas.
Meanwhile the man from the dark room slipped his university ID badge into his back pocket, picked up the oversized bundle, and went off to meet the businessman from China who wanted the stranger’s body. The money he would make from this deal would make it possible for him to get his book published. His dream was about to come true.
Back home in China, the businessman looked at his prize. An excellent specimen, just perfect for his purposes. It would bring a handsome price indeed. He and his small team of medical trainees stripped the skin from the stranger’s body and cut away the fat to reveal the muscles and inner organs. Using the latest technologies, he then preserved the body while manipulating it to look as if it were walking down the street. The stranger was now prepared to meet thousands.
The businessman was pleased — but even more pleased by the order he’d received that morning. No longer would his unfortunate strangers be sold to educational organizations with limited funding.
His latest order for a preserved body had come from a private art collector.
Question: When a man dies alone with no one to identify him, who does his body belong to?
Corollary question: If you don’t believe in the 3-letter answer to the question above, then imagine for a moment the stranger was your son. Would you rather have his body cared for by the shopkeeper or the businessman?