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The skeleton of Charles Byrne Photo by: Google Images

Royal College of Surgeons reject bid to bury skeleton of 'Irish giant'

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The skeleton of Charles Byrne Photo by: Google Images

British museum chiefs have rejected a call by law and medical ethics experts to bury at sea the skeleton of an 18th century Irish man known as the 'Irish giant'.

Charles Byrne, who hailed from County Derry, once stood over 7 foot 7 inches tall, which during his own era in the late 1700's was freakishly tall, and he quickly found fame and fortune by exhibiting himself as a curiosity in London.

But Byrne's growing notoriety reportedly got the better of him and his hard drinking hard living life saw him die young in his home in Charing Cross aged just 22.

After his death Byrne's body was immediately acquired by the British surgeon John Hunter and to this day his skeleton remains at the Royal College of Surgeons in London.

But in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal, Len Doyal the emeritus professor of medical ethics at Queen Mary, University of London and Thomas Muinzer a lawyer at the School of Law, Queen's University, Belfast, have both called for Byrne's skeleton to be buried at sea 'as Byrne intended for himself.'

Both authors told The Guardian that Byrne's wish to be buried at sea was ignored because Hunter (the pre-eminent surgeon and anatomist of his era) had determined to possess Byrne's body for his own research purposes.

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'What has been done cannot be undone but it can be morally rectified. Surely it is time to respect the memory and reputation of Byrne: the narrative of his life, including the circumstances surrounding his death,' they wrote.

Doctor Sam Alberti, the director of the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons, rejected the two men's suggestions: 'The Royal College of Surgeons believes that the value of Charles Byrne's remains, to living and future communities, currently outweighs the benefits of carrying out Byrne's apparent request to dispose of his remains at sea.'

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