Human Interest

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Whose Bodies Are in the ‘Bodies’ Exhibit?

May 23, 2008 01:40 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Concerns have arisen that a number of preserved bodies on display in popular exhibitions may have come from Chinese prisons.

30-Second Summary

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Premier Exhibition’s “Bodies … the Exhibition” has appeared in numerous American cities such as New York, Las Vegas, Seattle and Pittsburgh. But a recent investigation by the ABC news program “20/20” questions how the bodies on display are obtained.

Although the “Bodies” exhibition has faced accusations that the corpses it uses come from prisoners in Chinese labor camps, Premier denies these allegations, claiming they only use “legitimate, unclaimed bodies,” according to ABC News.

Nonetheless, in late January 2008, the California state assembly passed a bill compelling the exhibitors to attain prior consent from the donors or donors’ families before they use their bodies in the show.

“Bodies” isn’t the only exhibit featuring plastinated human bodies. German anatomist Gunther von Hagen, who invented the plastination technique in 1977, has been showing his “Body Worlds” exhibition since 1995.

Moreover, von Hagen says that his bodies come only from “European donors who voluntarily consented prior to their deaths to have their bodies put on display,” according to ABC News. He went on to say that he no longer uses Chinese bodies, fearing that they could be executed prisoners.

But lack of consent is not the only issue surrounding these anatomical exhibits. Some critics have called it downright inappropriate to slice up human bodies and parade them in various poses for public view. Supporters argue, however, that the unique presentation of the human form offered by the exhibits is a valuable educational experience.

Headline Links: The questionable origins of the bodies

Background: Tracing the path of the body plastination exhibits

What is plastination?
The controversial Gunther von Hagens
Exhibit stirs “fury” in Britain
California bill seeks prior consent

Reactions: Responding to the ‘20/20’ report

Opinion & Analysis: The Ethical dilemma

‘Body Displays, If Properly Run, Are Very Educational’
The necessity of donor consent
Exhibits “nothing more than high-tech carnival displays”
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