LONDON, August 1, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — Twenty skinless cadavers, other body parts and fetal remains are currently being exhibited in Britain. Critics say the macabre display poses ethical questions and raises concerns about human rights and human dignity.
The exhibition entitled Real Bodies: the Exhibition is taking place at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre.
UK medics have launched a petition against the exhibition. In an open letter to Birmingham's coroner, Louise Hunt, doctors ask her to investigate the bodies on display at the NEC.
“We are UK-based healthcare workers and doctors who have concerns that there is an exhibition at the NEC of more than 20 Chinese bodies in Birmingham where:
1. The cause of death is unknown
2. There are grounds to believe that the cause of death was unnatural
As such we believe that under the Coroners Act, you have grounds to investigate the cause of death as the deceased are currently within the Birmingham and Solihull area until August 19th.”
Although the signatories of this letter accept there is no suggestion that “the import of the deceased into the UK by Imagine Exhibitions was illegal,” the medics went on to state that “given our suspicions regarding both the origin of these bodies and their cause of death, we call on you as Birmingham coroner to investigate in order to try and establish the cause of death (of these) 20 Chinese individuals.”
In addition, this week the exhibition and its contents prompted a Parliamentary Question posed by veteran pro-life Peer, Lord Alton.
Written Questions: July 24th 2018
Lord Alton of Liverpool asked:
Whether they have caused inquiries to be made about the origins of the 20 unidentified skinless human bodies in an exhibition at the National Exhibition Centre and the circumstances in which these people died; what assurance they have that they are not cadavers of disappeared Chinese political and religious prisoners; and whether they are arranging for the bodies to be examined to see whether there is any remaining evidence of the removal of organs.
The American organizer of the exhibit, Imagine Exhibitions president Tom Zaller, dismissed any suggestion of unnatural deaths as “fake news.” He said all those on display had died from natural causes and that the company works closely with the owner of the dead bodies, which is the Chinese university, Dalian Medical University Biology Plantation.
Similar exhibitions have also attracted controversy. In Sydney, Australia, Imagine Exhibitions are currently running an exhibition, the Real Bodies-The Exhibition. It also features plasticised human bodies. This has provoked an open letter signed by lawyers, academics, ethicists and human rights advocates urging the Australian government to close down the exhibition. The authors of the letter stated:
“Real Bodies-The Exhibition is a for-profit business which tours the world exhibiting flayed, plastinated human corpses fashioned into grotesque postures along with plastinated specimens of various human organs.
“Doctors, ethicists, lawyers and human rights advocates at ETAC have substantial concerns about the provenance of the bodies used in this exhibition. Allegedly the exhibits are sourced from the unclaimed corpses of people who have died in hospital, procured by the Public Security Bureau, however it is not possible the bodies were ‘unclaimed’, as according to regulations and autopsy rules issued by China’s Ministry of Health on February 22, 1979, bodies can only be declared ‘unclaimed’ after 30 days. Of note, the plastination process, which involves the use of silicon, epoxy, and other polymer mixtures to replace the fluid in the human body, must occur within 48 hours of death. Therefore it is not possible to plastinate a corpse that is 30 days old.
“Rather than being sourced from unclaimed bodies, as the exhibitors claim, there is credible evidence that these are the bodies of executed prisoners and prisoners of conscience from China.”
Citing ethical concerns, both France and Israel as well as Hawaii and Seattle, have banned similar exhibitions in the past. In 2009, a French judge shut down the exhibition, Our Body: À Corps Ouvert, featuring 17 Chinese bodies in various positions, some skinless or with muscles flayed. The bodily fluids having also been replaced with plastic to preserve them using the methodology invented by the controversial, German anatomist Gunther von Hagens, whose 2002 London show Body Worlds caused outrage. The Paris judge said legally, the proper place for corpses was “in a cemetery”, and displaying corpses for commercial profit showed a lack of respect for the dead. In 2012, in Tel Aviv another similar exhibition of dead Chinese was also closed down by court order.
The UK show, Real Bodies: The Exhibition, is billed as “a powerful thought-provoking exhibition exploring life by displaying 20 real, perfectly and respectfully preserved human bodies.” Its website gives the following warning: “This exhibition contains real human bodies and anatomical specimens which have been posthumously dissected and preserved using the process of plastination. As this exhibition features adult bodies and specimens in their entirety, including some with model eyeballs and full genitalia, parental guidance is suggested. Before entering, please determine whether the exhibition is right for you and any children in your care.” The preserving technique mentioned involves replacing body's liquids and fats with plastic.
The NEC exhibition includes fetuses ranging from 10 weeks’ to 32 weeks’ gestation.