Grover Cleveland

Veto Message

April 26, 1886

To the Senate of the United States:

I herewith return Senate bill No. 349, entitled "An act for the promotion of anatomical science and to prevent the desecration of graves," without my approval.

The purpose of this bill is to permit the delivery of certain dead bodies to the medical colleges located in the District of Columbia for dissection.

Such disposition of the bodies of unknown and pauper dead is only excused by the necessity of acquiring by this means proper and useful anatomical knowledge, and the laws by which it is permitted should, in deference to a decent and universal sentiment, carefully guard against abuse and needless offense.

The measure under consideration does not with sufficient care specify and limit the officers and the parties who it is proposed to invest with discretion in the disposition of dead bodies remaining in the institutions and places mentioned in the bill. The second section indicates an intention to prevent the use of said bodies for any other purpose than the promotion of anatomical and surgical knowledge within the District of Columbia, and to secure after such use the decent burial of the remains. It declares that a bond shall be given providing for the performance of these conditions. But instead of exacting the bond from the medical colleges, to which alone, by the terms of the first section, the bodies are to be delivered, such bond is required of "every physician or surgeon before receiving such dead body."

The bill also provides that a relative by blood or marriage, or a friend, may, within forty-eight hours after death, demand that any body be buried, upon satisfying "the authorities" of the relationship claimed to the deceased.

The "authorities" to be thus satisfied should be clearly defined, and the determination of a question so important should be left with those only who will perform this duty with proper care and consideration.


Grover Cleveland, Veto Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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