Necropsy is a surgical procedure done on a corpse of a person for the sake of
learning the circumstances of their death. This particular entry in the
Compendium details necropsy
practices in the Santharian kingdom.
Practices elsewhere, such as the North and
Nybelmar, are not yet detailed. Traditionally, necropsies performed in the
Santharian kingdom are done by the
White Nehtorian sect or clergy of
the goddess Queprur. The intent is not
to restore life, of course, but to ascertain the cause of that person's death,
and any other health problems that person suffered from. This is enshrouded in
dilemma, for not all communities allow necropsies; even in those that do, many
families prefer their dear departed loved one not to undergo this disfiguring
A necropsy involves opening and examining the major cavities of the body - skull, chest, belly - looking for any signs of illness or disease that may have caused the death of the departed. Necropsy as a field of study is relatively recent, but the practice has been passed down among healers for hundreds of years. Chirurgeons on the whole do not participate in necropsies, because this is thought to curse their practice of surgery with death or adverse outcomes. In some of the more superstitious regions of Santharia, necropsies are akin to dark necromantic practices, but that doesn't stop body snatchers from stealing fresh corpses for curious mages or scholars.
Purpose. At the center of the examination is a hypothesis: Why did this person die? Although healers are supposed to remain completely objective in any examination, even after the person's death, it often helps to know what to look for. For example, in the instance of tumors, a necropsy may be the only way to be absolutely sure of the presence of a tumor, and hence the cause of death. On the flip side of the token, there is no substitute for thoroughness. There is every reason to continue searching for the truth behind a person's illness, even after death. Even if one fervently believes that they know that a crushing head wound caused a person's death, that person ought to investigate to exclude other proximal causes of death: What if that person actually had a parasite in their gut which would have caused their death with or without the head wound?
Methods/Procedure. The method of necropsy is adequately described in the open letter which follows. This is a depiction of a particularly gruesome necropsy, and it should be noted that the conditions and manner of doing a necropsy vary depending on the circumstances of death and who is doing the examining. The author of the letter is unknown, though the penmanship appears to be fairly recent.
recollection still sends a chill through my spine, three years after the
events which altered my mind forever after. This is my recounting of the
first and only necropsy I personally witnessed. Although the nameless
characters performed the examination with precision and care, the grisly
nature of the thing and the defilement of a human body froze my blood on
that fated night.
Typically, a cleric of Queprur presides
over the necropsy. Their role consists of consecrating the body, followed by
observing the necropsy to ensure that the dignity of the departed is respected.
The Queprurians have an affinity for all
things related to death, thus they perform the proper blessings and rites so
that the Scythe Goddess might tolerate
the necropsy. In the case of a suspected murder victim, the accepted method is
for the cleric to perform the entire necropsy him or herself, allowing for more
application of their unique skill set. They may look for signs of envenomation,
evil magic, corruption of the bodily constituents, and so on.
Nyermersys, the City of Death, witnessed the first widespread use of necropsy in recorded history. When the Plague of 602 b.S. broke out, the clerics of Queprur had to perform necropsies after several similar deaths occurred to ascertain the cause of death. The Bonehouse of the Plague saw many, perhaps more than fifty, necropsies performed over a three-month span. Then, the town had to be sealed to prevent the disease from spreading. For this reason, the Bonehouse is considered the birthplace of the modern necropsy.
Advocates of necropsy largely consist of White Nehtorians who are versed in the procedure, plus a few scholars who are familiar with practices to ensure the sanctity of the bodies of the deceased. Bolger the Grey, a White Nehtorian in New-Santhala and recent advocate of necropsy, has stated, "I have performed many such procedures, perhaps over a hundred. I have not once seen or heard evidence that I have defiled a body nor dishonoured the memory of anyone. What I have seen and learned is a wealth of knowledge which would not be otherwise obtainable except by examination of people's remains." Felina Esai of the Quaelhoirhim, well-acquainted with New-Santhala and the White Nehtorian practices, has warned against abuse of necropsy, only performing examination of the dead in case of obscure cause of death or other extenuating circumstances. A prominent fire mage of Ximax, Xas'daktlor, has made efforts to dispel concern about necropsy as a legitimate study of cause of death, saying, "To know the nature of a thing, often we must analyze that thing at its very core. One would not dare consider him or herself an expert in myrmexes without having dissected a few to see their inner workings. Similarly, we cannot consider a healer to be any sort of specialist in healing arts unless they have studied the inner workings of the body, even after the breath of life has gone out of the body." Clerics of Queprur maintain that, so long as the body is not desecrated and proper respect is paid, a soul may still be at rest, even after necropsy is performed on a person's remains. Seyellan priests hold the opinion that knowledge is virtue, and that necropsy does not disturb the path of a person's soul after death.
Yet, there are those who oppose the practice of necropsy for various reasons. Xuster, a water mage of Ximax, compels clerics and healers alike to avoid any contact with dead bodies. Citing similarities between necropsy and necromancy, he opines that both are manipulation of the dead in ways not intended by the gods. Priests of Urtengor assert that any tampering with the construction of the gods is desecration of a body and thus dishonouring the posterity of that person. Even more so, dwarves bodies are known to slowly petrify after death, which is taken as evidence that bodies of the dead should not be tampered with. Eyashan clerics believe that, once the breath of life has gone out of a person's body, there is no good reason for performing surgical procedures on that person.