7,000 Bodies Found on Medical Center Grounds

Officials have discovered that as many as 7,000 bodies are interred in the ground beneath the University of Mississippi Medical Center, on land that once was home to the state’s mental institution. It only recently became clear that there were bodies buried on campus—some 2,000 bodies were discovered three years ago when work began on a new parking garage. But new sonar studies show many more bodies are hidden underground. The former asylum operated from 1855 to 1935, and the dead were likely deceased patients. The medical center has struggled with how to handle the remains, and it has estimated that exhuming and reburying all of the bodies would cost about $21 million for the teaching hospital. Instead, the facility has suggested digging up a portion of the remains to donate to scientific research and build a memorial to the remaining patients who were denied proper burial. “We will exhume as many as we can, and we will archive or curate the remains as scientific specimens, and then our plan is to place them in a functional memorial structure,” said Ralph Didlake, the director of the medical center’s Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities.