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King Autopsy Pictures Used as Medical School Teaching Aid

May 11, 1985

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) _ Autopsy pictures of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. will no longer be used in a pathology class on gunshot wounds, the University of Tennessee announced Friday after receiving complaints.

Dr. Robert L. Summitt, dean of the Center for Health Sciences, said use of the pictures in a medical school class showed ″very poor judgment,″ and he apologized to Coretta Scott King, the civil rights leader’s widow.

The action was taken after first-year medical students complained they were upset by slides showing King with his lower jaw and part of his neck ripped away by a rifle shot. King was murdered in Memphis in 1968.

Mrs. King issued a statement in Atlanta, calling the episode ″a personal offense to the King family.″

″I am gratified that a number of medical students were sensitive enough to recognize the inappropriateness of the use of these slides,″ she said.

Summitt said he has told his staff not to use any autopsy photographs in which a person is identifiable.

Dr. O.C. Smith, a pathology instructor, said he put together the lecture and slide show several years ago, and included the King slides because the wounds ″are so characteristic of the awewome destructiveness of high-velocity weapons.″

Charlotte Boney, a first-year medical student, said she was shocked when slides of King were displayed during a lecture on gunshot wounds.

″It was awful. That’s not the way I want to remember him, and now that’s exactly how I will remember him,″ she said.

Summitt said he did not plan to discipline anyone because the affair.

″The instructor used these pictures in good faith - in poor judgment, yes, but without malice,″ he said.

″To family and friends and all others who respect and admire Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., our sincere regrets and profound apologies,″ Summitt said at a news conference attended by Rep. Harold Ford, D-Tenn., the state’s only black congressman.

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