Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Duties to human remains in universities and museums

Date:
May 12, 2010
Source:
Uppsala University
Summary:
Human remains are stored in universities and museums all over the world. A recent example of genetic testing on old human remains is the results from Tutankhamon and his family. A Swedish researcher addresses the moral status of past people and protection for historical persons, and also our duties towards the dead.

Human remains are stored in universities and museums all over the world. A recent example of genetic testing on old human remains is the results from Tutankhamon and his family. On May 29, Malin Masterton will defend her doctoral thesis on the moral status of past people and protection for historical persons. The thesis also discusses our duties towards the dead.

Related Articles


We only need tiny amounts of DNA to test for disease or confirm identity, even from people who have been dead for a very long time. In the case of Tutankhamon and his family, researchers could reveal identities of up till now unknown mummies and show probable cause of death for the young king. The fact that such tests can be performed on historical persons raised enough questions for a PhD thesis.

"At least in Sweden, the living are protected by laws on genetic integrity. We have no legal obligations to King Tut or other historical persons, but there is perhaps still integrity worth protecting," says Malin Masterton at the Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics (CRB).

But whose integrity and interests is it when the person is dead? According to Malin Masterton, parts of a person's identity remains after death. One way of looking at identity is as a narrative -- the story of one's life -- that both stands alone and is interwoven with other people's stories. Seen like this, the dead too have a name and a reputation worth protecting.

If the dead, to some degree like the living, have integrity and reputation, they also have moral status and we can wrong them. According to Malin Masterton, we have three duties to the dead. We have a duty of truthfulness in our description of a persons' reputation. We also have a duty to respect the personal integrity of the dead in research contexts. Finally, we have a duty to admit wrongs we have committed to the dead, like illegal archaeological digs.

"I propose that the dead should be given moral status based on our respect for human life," says Malin Masterton.

The thesis is relevant both for the handling of remains of known historical persons and for the debate on all the anonymous human remains stored in universities, institutions and museums around the world. It is mainly indigenous peoples' who have reacted to the handling of their ancestors' remains. Demands on repatriation and reburial need to be met, both by archaeologists and museums.

In her thesis, Malin Masterton discusses ethical guidelines for the handling of human remains and makes suggestions for revisions. The basis for these revisions is that also the dead have an identity in the form of a narrative.

"Perhaps we need to consider how we deal with human remains of indigenous people, like the Sami skeletons that are stored in Swedish museums, as well as with human remains where there are no living representatives who can argue their case," says Malin Masterton.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Uppsala University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Uppsala University. "Duties to human remains in universities and museums." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 May 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100512112318.htm>.
Uppsala University. (2010, May 12). Duties to human remains in universities and museums. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100512112318.htm
Uppsala University. "Duties to human remains in universities and museums." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100512112318.htm (accessed November 26, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Reuters - Entertainment Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) — The iconic piano from "Casablanca" and the Cowardly Lion suit from "The Wizard of Oz" fetch millions at auction. Sara Hemrajani reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) — A multinational group of scientists have released the first ever detailed, high-resolution 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice. Using an underwater robot equipped with sonar, the researchers mapped the underside of a massive area of sea ice to gauge the impact of climate change. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ruins Thought To Be Port Actually Buried Greek City

Ruins Thought To Be Port Actually Buried Greek City

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) — Media is calling it an "underwater Pompeii." Researchers have found ruins off the coast of Delos. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amphipolis Tomb Architraves Reveal Faces

Amphipolis Tomb Architraves Reveal Faces

AFP (Nov. 22, 2014) — Faces in an area of mosaics is the latest find by archaeologists at a recently discovered tomb dating back to fourth century BC and the time of Alexander the Great in Greece. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins