Woman volunteered to have her body frozen and 'milled' into 27,000 hair-thin slices

  • by:
  • Source: Daily Mail
  • 12/14/2018

Woman volunteered to have her body frozen and 'milled' into 27,000 hair-thin slices

  • by:
  • Source: Daily Mail
  • 12/14/2018

A Denver woman has become the first human to volunteer their body as a 'digital cadaver'.   

Sue Potter, a mother-of-two who died of pneumonia at 87 in 2015, was posthumously frozen and rapidly sliced into 27,000 hair-thin pieces, which were painstakingly preserved over three years, then digitized to teach students. 

In the 15 years between pledging her body and her death, Sue recorded everything about her life, describing her lifestyle, feelings, aches, pains and more so that students in years to come can understand the woman behind the medical records they're reading. 

During that time, she requested to see the saw that would slice her, the fridge where she'd be stored, and the polyvinyl alcohol that would be poured over her body before it was ground up. 

She also requested that she be sawed up to the sound of blaring classical music, surrounded by roses. 

Now that the process has been completed, an intimate account of her entire 15-year journey has been published by in the National Geographic's January 2019 issue, The Future Of Medicine, revealing the painstaking work and emotions, and the relationships, behind this scientific feat.   

Sue grew up in Nazi Germany, abandoned by her parents who moved to New York and left her with her grandparents. She told National Geographic she has never forgiven them. 

She emigrated to New York from Germany after the Second World War, met and married her husband Harry Potter in 1956 and had two daughters. 

They later moved to Colorado when Harry retired. It's not clear what happened to Harry, nor how Sue became estranged from her daughters, but by the age of 73 in 2000, Sue was alone. 

Health-wise, she'd endured plenty in her seven decades. Sue had diabetes, she'd had melanoma, a brush with breast cancer, and various surgeries under her belt.

In 2000, when she thought she had a year left to live, she read an article about the University of Colorado's Human Simulation Project and their groundbreaking Visible Human project. 

Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the team had embalmed and frozen the bodies of one man (a 39-year-old death row convict, Joseph Paul Jernigan, in 1993) and one woman (a 59-year-old who disease of heart disease in Maryland in 1994), which were then sliced up and digitizing for the purpose of educating medical students.


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