The recent article referenced below (HT to Kevin MD who HT’d Dr Tony Youn) reminded me of a conversation I had with a patient early in my career. She was a young widow. She was back in my office for a follow up visit after surgery. We got off on her grieving, her husband's illness, and other topics. He had died from a tumor in his lower face /upper neck that was inoperable due to the way it was connected and invading the structures nearby (think carotid and inferior jugular). It had left him very disfigured. She told me she regretted not being able to have an open casket funeral for him.
“I hope you don’t find this strange, but I wish the tumor could have been removed after he died. Then we could have had an open casket funeral.”
I blurted out "I would have removed for you."
"Really, you would?" she said.
"Yes, I would have."
"Thank you, Dr Bates. That would have meant the world to me."
Thinking back, I'm not sure why I blurted it out other than the connection we had at the moment. I don't regret saying it. I meant what I said to her. Inoperable tumors become operable after death because you don't have to worry about the blood supply to the brain anymore. You no longer have to worry about whether they might stroke out if you disrupt that supply. So debulking a tumor so the deceased looks "more normal" would be feasible. It would also be good practice for a young surgeon doing the dissection without worry of harming the person.
I don't think I would ever want to be part of doing a posthumous face lift or blepharoplasty or other cosmetic procedure, but I would be willing to debulk tumors if it would help families or individuals say "goodbye" more easily.
Final Touch: A Cosmetic Lift for Your Funeral? by Diane Mapes; MSNBC, Dec 9, 2008