Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Corpses on Display: Is "The Bodies" exhibit ethical?

In Atlanta, an exhibit which displays flayed and mutilated human corpses, albeit very well preserved, is currently available for public viewing purposes. Last weekend I walked through the display, and felt very uncomfortable, as if what I was doing was wrong. It wasn't until I left the building that I began to wonder if it was ethical to be viewing a bunch of human corpses for entertainment.

One of the first and most noticeable aspects of the bodies is that they belonged to Asians, as some of them still have their face(or part of their face) attached to the skull. When I got outside, there were protesters, claiming that the Chinese communist government captured these people for practicing Falun Gong and as a result of religious oppression, their bodies are now on public display. Others believe that they may have been poor/homeless people who were powerless to deny the government the use of their body post-mortem. One thing that is certain is that the company that produces this display will not tell where they get the bodies from, or how they get them, and I am not able to find any information otherwise.

Another thing I noticed was "condensation" on some of the organs in the cases, which upon further reading I discovered could be a result of poor preservation techniques. Leakage.

What most disturbed me was that there were a lot of people who were clearly not there for education, but simply for entertainment, making sport of the dead bodies. Here I noticed people entertaining themselves by looking at the corpses, as I heard several times "eww sick look at that" from spectators. The corpses on display were once people who were born, grew up, had dreams, secret crushes, ambitions, and possibly a religion. Now they sit mutilated on display, and spectators celebrate this disrespect for humanity by paying $20 a piece to be "grossed out."

On the other hand, if one is participating for strictly educational purposes, I find nothing wrong with the concept of this exhibit.


Blogger Jeannine said...

i think seeing this exhibition would leave me uneasy, not knowing where these people came from.

Wed Apr 12, 01:45:00 PM  
Blogger iconoclasm said...

This is terrible. They even encourage children to come.

I researched this a while back and it goes pretty deep.

Sometimes they leak fluids.

The one you went to claims to have nothing to do with all the other persons and exhibits but their bodies were obtained from Dalian Medical University in China where Gunther von Hagens is a visiting professor.
He has been accused of procuring bodies from prisons, hospitals, and asylums.
He is said to get them from Siberia, Kyrgyzstan, and China. He destroyed some bodies that were said to be Chinese politcal prisoners before they could be investigated.

I read one time that there was a bullet hole in the head of one of the Chinese bodies but I don't remember where or whose exhibit it was.

Why can't the same educational purposes be achieved with models? Because it won't be as controversial and draw as many people. von Hagens exhibits have made over $200 million.

Wed Apr 12, 09:05:00 PM  
Blogger j.wo said...

Whoa...those pictures seem pretty intense.

There IS a difference between education and morbid curiosity. How recent were these bodies? And I'd be VERY curious to find out the history of these corpses...

The fact that the information is not freely provided makes me VERY suspicious.

Good blog, bro. :)

Thu Apr 13, 06:04:00 PM  

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