Jean Ann Carol with research by Kathleen Forneson
An Unusual EntryHere we have a most unusual journal entry. It speaks for itself.
It appears that body part reunification is available. Giuseppina died in 1942, and there is no mention of her leg in the entry for her death.
Research on this unusual event leads us to: “Disposal of Amputated Members; Catholic Physicians’ Guild,” July 1948. (After the fact for our case; interesting nevertheless.)
- The ecclesiastical law commanding burial and forbidding cremation applies only to the bodies and amputated members of Catholics. However, the general tenor of ecclesiastical documents indicates that even in the case of non-Catholics the burial of amputated members (in unblessed ground) is preferable to cremation when the latter is not necessary.
- Even with regard to the amputated members of Catholics, the law applies only to such portions of the body as are reasonable considered notable or major. Perhaps the question---does the amputated member retain its “human quality”?—may be of service in determining what is a major part.
- The duty of seeing to the decent burial of major amputated parts falls primarily on the patient or his family; when these are willing and able to fulfill this duty the hospital authorities have no further obligations in the matter. It does not seem necessary, however, or even advisable to urge this duty on patients or their families when it is known that the prescribed legal formalities or the expense would be a source of great inconvenience to the person involved. And certainly, hospital authorities are excused from even suggesting this procedure when there is a well-founded fear that it would prejudice people against Catholic hospitals.
- When the patient or their families are unwilling or unable to see to the decent burial of the amputated members, the hospital authorities should provide for the disposal of the members according to the principles already explained. If arrangements can be made for burial without much inconvenience, this should be done. Cremation of such members is permissible when health or sanitation demands it; also, when burial is not feasible because of expense, inability to observe prescribed formalities, inability to provide a suitable place, and so forth.
One thing leads to another, and so now we have the tale of Santa Anna. You may recall, he was the Mexican politician and general who fought to defend New Spain and then for Mexican independence. He lost at the Alamo in 1936 and retreated to Mexico. Several years later, in 1838, he was hit in the leg by canon fire. He ordered the leg to be buried with full military honors. He had many “legs” over time; one was reportedly used by soldiers of the 4th Illinois battalion as a baseball bat. Santa Anna had a replacement leg made which is displayed in the National History Museum in Mexico City. Wikipedia
Sometimes, you just can’t make this stuff up.
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