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Extra resources for Anatomy live : performance and the operating theatre
The media instantly turned Jernigan into a posthumous celebrity. 22 Jernigan’s dissection into slices was described as ‘extra punishment’ on top of his death sentence. Some newspapers commented that, by donating his body to this educational-scientific project, Jernigan at least paid his dues to society. 23 In whatever capacity, the mythology of the convicted criminal has become an integral part of the Visible Male data set; Jernigan’s digital representation is a constant re- 38 ANATOMY LIVE minder of American capital punishment, of the body disciplined through crime and punishment, forever exposed to the scopic regime of science.
The VHP presents itself as a visual reference book – a standard body for the twenty-first century. However, it is rather presumptuous to equate actual cadavers to digital reconstructions, and to treat virtual dissections as equally valid as their real-life counterparts. Nevertheless, this does not mean that working with the VHP’s data sets constitutes a lesser or less valuable preparatory tool for future doctors. On the contrary, getting acquainted with human anatomy through digital cross-sections perfectly fits everyday practice in contemporary medicine, which already relies heavily on looking at scanned cross-sections of patients’ bodies.
While still on death row, he had agreed to donate his body to science, and specifically to the Visible Human Project. In exchange for his collaboration, his sentence to the electric chair was changed into death by lethal injection. Just like Renaissance judges who sentenced criminals to the gallows to please anatomists, the milder sentence for the Texan prisoner was primarily motivated by a desire to serve the interests of science rather than those of the convict: lethal injection causes minimal effects on the otherwise perfect body.