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Stories from the birth of Modern Surgery: The Doctors, Their Victims and The Collections...
Lesley-Anne Morrison
Email Verified
United Kingdom
1 Team Member


The advancement of modern surgery came with a price. Victims of the anatomists were often anonymous bits of flesh, yielding under surgeons’ knives. With “Medicine’s Dark Secrets”, they will be anonymous no more.

We have access to restricted medical and forensic collections, filled with jars of body parts that have been sliced, diced and catalogued for scientific research. But, what about the people who make up these collections? Who are these specimens?

We think it is important to tell the stories of these people who died, as well as the surgeons who cut open their bodies, so that these collections do not remain concealed, misinterpreted and misunderstood.

In this feature length documentary, we’ll follow a body from the moment of death, to its delivery onto the surgeon’s table, continue through the process of anatomization and what happened after; concluding with a selection of body parts in medical collections that no member of the public has seen – until now. 

In “Medicine’s Dark Secrets”, we’ll explore the reasons why this body - and others like it - were anatomized and put on display. With help from our interviewees, we’ll investigate what happened to different body parts, how they became taboo and why they were later hidden in museum archives.

From criminals to corpses and from ‘sack ‘em up men’ to skin books, we examine the stories of the people who died – knowingly or not – in an effort to advance medical science in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

We are aiming to make Medicine’s Dark Secrets a stunning, cinematic journey into the past. We hope that you’ll go on that journey with us. You will meet some amazing people, hear some fascinating stories and see some extraordinary objects and specimens along the way and we’ll come out the other side having learned about this pivotal time in medical history.

Your feedback is important to us. We’d like to hear from you. What stories would you like to see on Medicine’s Dark SecretsThe Casebooks of The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice are open to us, so have a look and let us know what fascinates and repels you. 


Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris is an award-winning medical historian, freelance writer, public speaker and historic media consultant. She has written for The Guardian, New Scientist, The Lancet and History Today; and is a member of The Order of the Good Death, a community of artists, writers and scholars who are trying to communicate about death in new and innovative ways. Her blog, The Chirurgeon’s Apprenticeis listed in Scientific American’s top ten.

Dr. Fitzharris is the author and creator of The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice; and “Medicine’s Dark Secrets” is based on a series of articles from this popular medical history website. Currently, The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice has 11,000+ followers worldwide and has received over 350,000 hits since its launch in 2011.

Lindsey has appeared on BBC4 with Michael Moseley in “Guts: The Strange & Mysterious World of the Human Stomach”. She has also advised on historical issues for National Geographic and appeared with Tony Robinson on “Gods & Monsters” for Channel 4 UK


History isn’t just the domain of Historians and Academics. It’s yours. The Past belongs to YOU.

We want to put the ‘human’ back into human anatomy and bring the past back to life through the stories of the people who died.

Your help will enable us to give each victim a voice and put each specimen in historic context. Your donations will help us to gain access to locations and collections, many of which have never been seen by the general public.


-        Access to locations, including restricted museums and collections.

-        Crew

-        Sound Mixing & Editing.

-        Equipment Rental.

The Scottish production company Big baby Productions Ltd. will be bringing Medicine’s Dark Secrets” to life.


Find This Campaign On
raised by 431 people in 1 month
109% funded
No time left
$30,000 USD goal
Flexible Funding This campaign has ended and will receive all funds raised.
Campaign Closed
This campaign ended on April 26, 2013
Select a Perk
  • $10USD
    The Corpse

    Thank You via Facebook, Twitter and in the Credits of the film.

    88 claimed
  • $35USD
    The Bodysnatcher

    40 page pocket sized MDS Notebook, with wax seal logo and Thanks in the credits of the film. (add $5 for shipping outside UK)

    47 claimed
    Estimated delivery: September 2013
  • $50USD
    The Hangman

    MDS T-Shirt. Black. Dictionary definition of Anthropodermic Bibliopegy on front and Medicine's Dark Secrets on back. You also get a Letter of Thanks from Lindsey and the above perks. (add $5 for shipping outside UK)

    25 claimed
    Estimated delivery: September 2013
  • $75USD
    The Quack

    DVD of Medicine's Dark Secrets. The extras have yet to be determined. Also, everything from The Hang Man. DVD will be shipped upon completion. (add $5 for shipping outside UK)

    67 claimed
    Estimated delivery: September 2013
  • $150USD
    The Plague Doctor

    A 40-page hardcover book of posts from Lindsey's blog and photos from the shoot. Also, everything from The Quack The book and DVD will ship separately, once completed. (add $5 for shipping outside UK)

    33 claimed
    Estimated delivery: September 2013
  • $250USD
    The Barber Chirurgeon

    A hand-bound, signed copy of Lindsey's annotated script from the documentary. Along with everything from The Plague Doctor. (add $5 for shipping outside UK) 15 bound scripts are available. 5 have been claimed already.

    7 out of 10 claimed
    Estimated delivery: October 2013
  • $1,000USD
    The Apothecary

    Tea and Syphilis Cupcakes with The Chirurgeon's Apprentice and Dr Carla Connolly, curator of St. Bart's Pathology Museum. (Date to be determined) Also, everything from The Plague Doctor. The DVD and Hardcover book will ship separately when completed. You must make your own way to St Bart's for Tea.

    1 out of 10 claimed
    Estimated delivery: November 2013
  • $2,000USD
    The Apprentice

    Attend a Private Screening of Medicine's Dark Secrets with Lindsey, the Crew and some Special Guests from the film. You get all of the perks from The Plague Doctor AND an Associate Producer Credit in the film. The date of the screening to be determined. The DVD and Hardcover book will ship separately when they are completed. You must make your own way to the screening.

    1 out of 5 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2013
  • $5,000USD
    The Anatomist

    A Private Dinner with Dr. Fitzharris and a very special guest from the film. The dinner will take place in London, so you have to make your way there, but it will be worth it. (Date to be determined, but it'll be after the filming is completed.) You also get everything from The Apprentice, including the invite to the screening and the Associate Producer Credit. The DVD and Hardcover Book will ship separately when they are completed. You must make your own way to the screening.

    0 out of 1 claimed
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