Does Regina Really Have a Dead Baby Museum?

October 25, 2020 · 9 min. readThis article may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

"The answer to this question will be given to the best of my ability." – How to Prevent Cancer, John Champaux, 1971.

Assistant pathologist John Champaux worked at the Regina General Hospital for over three decades. During his time there, he performed thousands of autopsies and collected hundreds of specimens. Champaux's primary job involved determining the cause of death, but he was also trying to prevent additional carnage too. While he was working, he was searching for the answer to a mysterious illness that was suddenly exploding across the country.

This illness was cancer, and he was looking for a cure.

To do this, Champaux would take organs from autopsies, place them in a variety of chemicals and preserve them. He wanted to keep these organs in suspended animation as if they were still alive. He studied both healthy organs and cancerous organs, making notes on the state of deterioration, plasticity, appearance, and size. Over the decades he would work diligently to create this collection, and in 1975 he even named it the "Pathological Museum".

The Dead Baby Museum

The museum was vast and contained hundreds of specimens. These ranged from lungs, hearts, eyes, brains, tongues, feet, hands, and, apparently, a whole human head. Although Champaux began his search looking for a cure to cancer, he believed prevention would be a much more feasible and economical approach. In 1964 alone, over $5 billion was spent on cancer drugs in the United States – a number that when is adjusted for inflation ($41 billion) is only a fraction of today's price tag. Champaux believed if we were to study cancer prevention, we needed to understand how it starts, and it often starts at the beginning.

I do not know the exact numbers – and the Saskatchewan Health Authority will not give details – but among the various organic specimens Champaux collected are also scores of unborn fetuses. These fetuses are in various stages of development, all carefully preserved to show how humans grow while in the womb. This collection of fetuses gives medical staff an opportunity to study embryonic development and it helped Champaux gain a better understanding of what causes cancer – especially cancer in children.

Champaux started his collection in the 1960s and added his final specimen in 1993. Not long later, he would die, leaving his fascinating yet macabre collection in the care of the Regina General Hospital.

The Regina General Hospital

For a time, these jars were on display for curious staff members. They lined the hallways in the hospital, creating a sprawling gallery of curiosities. The "Pathological Museum" was not only fascinating for onlookers but a priceless educational tool for medical students too.

But not everybody approved of the "Pathological Museum". On one hand, granted, it is somewhat disturbing. On the other hand, there are some ethical questions about the collection. Although Champaux's goal of the museum was good and well, there are some reasonable concerns about having dead fetuses inside jars. All human life – even unborn and undeveloped – is precious, and needs to be treated as such. Do the benefits of the museum outweigh the ethics of having them on display?

It was decided that it was not, and the entire "Pathological Museum" was moved out of public sight.

Today, the Saskatchewan Health Authority acknowledges the existence of the collection but doesn't call it a "museum" – even though that's what Champaux called it. They do not like calling it an "exhibit" either, although for decades it was on display in the museum. Instead, it is just a "collection".

The Dead Baby Museum

But what are their plans with it? It is understandable why one might not want jarred fetuses on display but keeping them locked away in a closet does not make it better either. Currently, it is used for teaching and educational purposes in the hospital laboratory, but its long-term fate is undecided. The Saskatchewan Health Authority has said: "[We recognize] the sensitive, ethical, spiritual, and logistical challenges surrounding these specimens, and to ensure they are handled appropriately, we are undertaking a thorough engagement process to determine the future of the collection. This will include many stakeholders, including support and guidance from First Nations and Metis Health portfolio Traditional Knowledge Keepers Advisory Council and Treaty 4 Elders and Medicine People."

There are a lot of questions surrounding the "Pathological Museum" and the fate of the fetuses within it. It is an uncomfortable question, but what do you do with them? Especially ones that are over 50 years old? Do you locate the families? Do you bury them in a single plot? Do you even have a funeral?

And what of Champaux's search for the cure for cancer? Well, in 1971 he found the answer, and he compiled a manuscript to publish it. Titled How to Prevent Cancer, his manuscript goes into why prevention is better than curing, and the necessary steps needed to do both. His research was decades ahead of his time, and his findings helped saved the lives of thousands of people.

However, Champaux was not a doctor, and did not have a degree. Instead, he was an assistant pathologist. A genius, yes, but on paper, he did not have the education to make such claims. He acknowledged this too, and that is why the first line of his manuscript is the first line of my article: "The answer to this question will be given to the best of my ability." Because of this, no publisher would touch his manuscript.

I was fortunate to borrow a copy of his manuscript for this article, as not many copies exist. Much like the "Pathological Museum", Champaux's life's work has been kept from the public eye. Thankfully, as the decades have passed since his manuscript was written, many of his claims have been verified and the same preventive measures he was toting in the 1970s are now common knowledge. These include the acceptance of healthy fat into the diet (something that was actively avoided in the 1970s and 1980s) and improving intestinal health through probiotics. Unfortunately, millions have suffered and died while waiting for these ideas to become mainstream.

John Champaux's typed signature

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and because I am just some rando with a blog, the Saskatchewan Health Authority will not allow me into the Regina General Hospital to view the "Pathological Museum". Consequently, I also do not have any pictures either. I want to thank local artists Jeff Richards (follow him on Facebook and Instagram and his website) and Erickka Patmore (follow her on Facebook and Instagram and her website) for the art they created for this article. I also want to thank the multiple eyewitnesses who told me what the museum contains, and I want to thank the late John Champaux for his life-long research and for asking the hard questions even when nobody else would.

What do you think should be done with the "Pathological Museum"? Should the fetuses be kept on display? Have you ever been to the museum? Tell me about it in the comments below!

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And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.

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