Human Interest


'Bodies' Exhibit To Pay Refunds Amid Controversy

May 30, 2008 05:41 PM
by Josh Katz
A court settlement announced Thursday requires the 'Bodies' exhibit on display in New York to warn visitors about the unknown origins of the specimens and provide refunds.

30-Second Summary

The New York State attorney general’s office brokered the settlement with Premier Exhibitions following an investigation into how the company obtains its bodies.

“Bodies … the Exhibition,” which has run for more than two years at New York's South Street Seaport, must now publicly admit that it does not know whether or not the cadavers come from tortured or executed Chinese prisoners. Premier will also have to pay up to $50,000 in refunds to visitors and it cannot bring in new bodies without proper documentation.

'Bodies' has appeared in numerous American cities, including New York, Las Vegas, Seattle and Pittsburgh. The nebulous origins of its cadavers have been under scrutiny for some time, and the ABC news program "20/20" ran a segment on the issue in Feb. 2008.

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

This May, Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) spearheaded a bill to halt the importation of human body parts.

“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, and claims to require prior consent for the bodies.

Some critics have also said it is 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

The 20/20 report
What is plastination?
The controversial Gunther von Hagens
Exhibit stirs “fury” in Britain
California bill seeks prior consent

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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