It seems that our bodies are ‘given’, but they are contained and shaped by various forms of legislation. The series of legal documents hovering above the figures highlights the diverse political structures, governing bodies and forms of legislation that give rise to particular kinds of bodies.
While the body may be acted on by various technologies such as medical instruments, it may also be acted on by legislation that enshrines certain concepts of the human body in particular terms. The existence of people referred to as ‘donors’ and ‘recipients’, for instance, is an outcome of specific kinds of technical and political intervention. Some acts regulate the dissection of corpses; others restrict the
sale of organs or determine the kinds of procedures for cornea grafting.
Displayed are a selection of nine different British Laws, Acts, Bills and Guidelines, both historical and current. The documents present a brief snapshot of some of the many hundreds of forms of legislation that have been passed in the UK to regulate people’s bodies. They remind us of the political implications of understanding bodies in particular ways and changing perceptions of the body over time.
The following laws are on display.
An Act for Preventing the Horrid Crime of Murder 1751
An Act for Regulating Schools of Anatomy 1832
An Act to make Provision with Respect the Use of Eyes of Deceased Persons for Therapeutic Purposes 1952
The Anatomy Act 1984
The Transplant of Human Organs Bill 2000/01
The Human Tissue Act 2004
Guidance for the Care of Human Remains in Museums 2005
The Identity Cards Act 2006
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008