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University of Stirling


Article in Journal

Should the skeleton of "the Irish giant" be buried at sea?

Alternative title Why the Royal College of Surgeons should respect the wishes of "the Irish giant"

Doyal L & Muinzer T (2011) Should the skeleton of "the Irish giant" be buried at sea?, BMJ, 343 (7837), Art. No.: d7597.

First paragraph: The skeleton of Charles Byrne, the famous “Irish giant,” has been displayed at the Hunterian Museum in the Royal College of Surgeons for almost 200 years. It played an important part in linking acromegaly with the pituitary gland. In 1909 the American surgeon Harvey Cushing removed the top of Byrne’s skull and observed an enlarged pituitary fossa, confirming a relation between the disease and adenoma. This finding has enabled the diagnosis and early treatment of people with acromegaly. At the beginning of this year, further important research led by Marta Korbonits used the DNA from two of Byrne’s molars to establish a genetic link between him and several people from a particular area of Northern Ireland.Aside from giving those susceptible to the disease the opportunity for appropriate medical care, this link perhaps helps to explain the long tradition of mythology about giants in Irish history.

Medical law and ethics; organ and human remains retention; property and the human body

AuthorsDoyal Len, Muinzer Thomas
Publication date24/12/2011
Publication date online20/12/2011
Date accepted by journal01/12/2011
PublisherBMJ Publishing Group
ISSN 0959-8138

bmj: Volume 343, Issue 7837

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