BODIES... The Exhibition

BODIES... The Exhibition

Bodies The Exhibition is a controversial showcasing preserved human bodies dissected to display bodily systems. It opened in Tampa, Florida on August 20, 2005. [cite press release |title='BODIES… The Exhibition' Makes Its World Debut |publisher=Premier Exhibitions, Inc |date=2005-07-26 |url= |accessdate=2008-09-17] It is similar to, though not affiliated with, the exhibition Body Worlds (which opened in 1995). BODIES… is currently showing in Vienna, Madrid, Buenos Aires, Barcelona, Cincinnati, Santiago de Chile, Branson, Prague, Budapest, Lisbon, Atlantic City, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Las Vegas, New York, Fort Lauderdale, Hartford, San Antonio,Washington D.C, Honolulu, and Indianapolis.Update after

Bodies… The Exhibition is operated by Premier Exhibitions [cite web |url= |title=Welcome to Premier Exhibitions |accessdate=2008-09-17 |publisher=Premier Exhibitions, Inc] which presents, and promotes other bodies exhibits including Bodies Revealed, and Our Body: The Universe Within; and other entertainment exhibits such as Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition and Titanic Science; Sports Immortals and The Traveling Exhibition; and Dialog in the Dark. [cite web |url= |title=PRXI: Profile for Premier Exhibitions Inc |accessdate=2008-09-17 |publisher=Yahoo!]

Exhibit organization

The exhibit is set up so that one starts at the skeletal system, and more layers (muscular, nervous, circulatory, digestive, respiratory, urinary, and reproductive systems; as well as fetal development and the treated body) are added in successive rooms. Containing about twenty bodies in total, each exhibition uses real human bodies that have been preserved permanently by a process called "polymer preservation" so that they will not decay. This exhibition is organized by the publicly traded corporation, Premier Exhibitions Incorporated (nasdaq|PRXI), which also staged Bodies Revealed first in Seoul, South Korea and more recently in the US. The company claimed the cadavers were donated for research by the Chinese government, because all the bodies at the time of death allegedly had no close next of kin or immediate families to claim the bodies (see Criticism). Premier claimed the dissections took place at the Dalian University in Liaoning, China and the resulting specimens were leased to Premier Exhibitions for the five-year duration of the show. Recent investigations by the NY Attorney General and 20/20 among other sources have brought those claims into serious question. (see Criticism)

Some of the specimens are arranged so that they are performing activities such as playing basketball or conducting an orchestra. Along the way are other displays showing a human intestine stretched out, the polluted lung of an adult smoker, and all of the arteries and veins without the body itself. The exhibit of the polluted lung of the smoker also includes a clear standing box in which guests can discard their cigarettes and tobacco products after viewing the display. In the Las Vegas exhibit, there is also a polluted lung of a fetus on display. One section includes several fetuses in various stages of development. It is the claim of Premier Exhibitions that all of the fetuses died due to miscarriages, and the disorders which caused each are highlighted on most of the displays. Guests are notified by a small sign at the exhibit of the sensitivity of the fetus gallery just before entrance into the area curtained off with black curtains. Guests are also given an option to skip that room if so desired.

How the bodies are preserved

The bodies are prevented from decay by a rubberization process called plastination, patented in the 1970s by anatomist Gunther von Hagens. The essence of the process is the replacement of water and fatty material in the cells of the body first by acetone and then by plastics, such as silicone rubber, polyester or epoxy resin.


Prior to the 2005 U.S. premiere, the Florida Attorney General expressed the opinion that the State Anatomical Board’s approval should be required. The Board fought the Tampa exhibit, with its director expressing the opinion that the exhibit should be shut down. Premiere Exhibitions officials disagreed, claiming that the Board had jurisdiction only over medical schools and not museums; the exhibit opened two days ahead of schedule at the Tampa Museum of Science and Industry. [cite news |author=Associated Press |title=Museum Plans to Open Corpse Show in Fla. |url= | |date=2005-08-17 |accessdate=2008-09-17] cite news |first=Jana |last=Winter |title=Body exhibits titillate, but are they legal? |url= |publisher=Columbia University |date=2006-02-28 |accessdate=2008-09-17] [cite news |author=Associated Press |title=Attorney general's decision may scuttle Tampa cadaver exhibit |url= |work=USA Today |date=2005-08-13 |accessdate=2008-09-17] [cite press release |title=Crist Reponds to Florida Anatomical Board |publisher=State of Florida |date=2005-08-12 |url=,bodies,the,exhibition |accessdate=2008-09-17] [cite news |title=Bodies Exhibition not dead after all |url= |work=Tampa Bay Business Journal |date=2005-08-19 |accessdate=2008-09-17]

Questions regarding the origins of the bodies continue to be raised.cite news |first=Neda |last=Ulaby |authorlink=Neda Ulaby |title=Origins of Exhibited Cadavers Questioned |url= |work=All Things Considered |publisher=National Public Radio |date=2006-08-11 |accessdate=2008-09-17] In 2006, reporting from Dalian, China for the New York Times, David Barboza described "a ghastly new underground mini-industry" with "little government oversight, an abundance of cheap medical school labor and easy access to cadavers and organs." [cite news |first=David |last=Barboza |title=China Turns Out Mummified Bodies for Displays |url= |work=The New York Times |date=2006-08-08 |accessdate=2008-09-17] Premier representatives say "the bodies were not formally donated by people who agreed to be displayed." The director of the Anatomical Committee of the New York Associated Medical Schools (NYAMS) worries that "you have no documentation of who this is."

ABCNews' program 20/20 produced a major report exposing the 'secret trade in Chinese bodies.' [cite news |first=Brian |last=Ross |coauthors=Rhonda Schwarts and Anna Schecter |title=Exclusive: Secret Trade in Chinese Bodies |url= |work=20/20 |publisher=ABC News |date=2008-02-14 |accessdate=2008-09-17] Claiming that bodies are sold on the black market for $300, the report spawned not only a series of other articlescite news |first=Richard |last=Esposito |coauthors=Anna Schecter |title=Crackdown on Ghoulish 'Body Exhibitions' |url= |work=ABC News |date=2008-05-29 |accessdate=2008-09-17] [cite news |first=Anna |last=Schecter |title=Chinese Human Rights Activist Raises Serious Questions About Bodies Exhibitions |url= |work=ABC News |date=2008-02-15 |accessdate=2008-09-17] [cite news |first=Brian |last=Ross |coauthors=Rhonda Schwarts and Anna Schecter |title=N.Y., China Investigating Black Market in Bodies |url= |work=ABC News |date=2008-02-15 |accessdate=2008-09-17] but also a Congressional inquiry, [cite news |first=Anna |last=Schecter |title=Lawmakers Call for Congress to Probe Bodies Shows in Wake of '20/20' Report |url= |work=ABC News |date=2008-02-20 |accessdate=2008-09-17] an investigation by the NY Attorney General, and the resignation of Premier's CEO Arnie Geller. [cite news |first=Anna |last=Schecter |title='Bodies' CEO Resigns After '20/20' Report |url= |work=ABC News |date=2008-04-21 |accessdate=2008-09-17]

On the front of their exhibition websitecite web |url= |title=Bodies… The Exhibition |accessdate=2008-09-17 |publisher=Premier Exhibitions, Inc] reads a disclaimer describing the presumed origin of the bodies, and fetuses:Quote|Disclaimer:

-This exhibit displays human remains of Chinese citizens or residents which were originally received by the Chinese Bureau of Police. The Chinese Bureau of Police may receive bodies from Chinese prisons. Premier cannot independently verify that the human remains you are viewing are not those of persons who were incarcerated in Chinese prisons.

-This exhibit displays full body cadavers as well as human body parts, organs, fetuses and embryos that come from cadavers of Chinese citizens or residents. With respect to the human parts, organs, fetuses and embryos you are viewing, Premier relies solely on the representations of its Chinese partners and cannot independently verify that they do not belong to persons executed while incarcerated in Chinese prisons.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo concluded his investigation of Premier, finding "The grim reality is that Premier Exhibitions has profited from displaying the remains of individuals who may have been tortured and executed in China. Despite repeated denials, we now know that Premier itself cannot demonstrate the circumstances that led to the death of the individuals. Nor is Premier able to establish that these people consented to their remains being used in this manner. Respect for the dead and respect for the public requires that Premier do more than simply assure us that there is no reason for concern. This settlement is a start." [cite press release |title=Cuomo Settlement With 'Bodies. . . .The Exhibition' Ends The Practice Of Using Human Remains Of Suspect Origins |publisher=New York State Attorney General |date=2008-05-29 |url= |accessdate=2008-09-17]

In June 2007, Elaine Catz quit her job of 11 years as science education coordinator for the Carnegie Museum of Science in protest over the exhibit, citing religious objections and questions regarding provenance, including the issue of reports of organ harvesting from Falun Gong in China. [cite news |first=Joe |last=Smydo |title=Science Center defends bringing exhibit to city |url= |work=Pittsburgh Post-Gazette |date=2008-02-17 |accessdate=2008-09-17] [cite web |first=David |last=Matas |coauthors=David Kilgour |url= |title=Report Into Allegations of Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China |accessdate=2008-09-17 |date=2006-07-06] cite news |first=Elaine |last=Catz |title=Sunday Forum: Exhibition of exploitation |url= |work=Pittsburgh Post-Gazette |date=2007-06-24 |accessdate=2008-09-17]

In 2007, a Washington State bill was introduced to ban exhibits of bodies without clear documentation of consent, and a similar bill was introduced in January 2008 by California legislator Fiona Ma. [cite web |url= |title=HB 1253 - 2007-08: Requiring written authorization to display human remains for a commercial purpose |accessdate=2008-09-17] [cite web
title=AB 1519 Assembly Bill - AMENDED |accessdate=2008-09-17
] [cite web |last=Lambert |first=Edie |date=2008-01-17 |title='Bodies' Exhibit Draws Fire From Capitol |url= |publisher=KCRA-TV |accessdate=2008-09-17]

In June 2008 New York State passed a bill requiring anyone showing an exhibit that uses real human bodies in museums across New York to get a permit to show where exactly the bodies came from. Senator Jim Alesi sponsered the bill. [cite news |author=WROC-TV |title=Cracking down on human body exhibits |url= |publisher=Nexstar Broadcasting Group |date=2008-06-19 |accessdate=2008-09-17]

Professional ethicists, human rights activists and religious leaders have also objected. "Given the (Chinese) government's track record on the treatment of prisoners, I find this exhibit deeply problematic," said Sharon Hom, the executive director of the advocacy group Human Rights in China.cite news |first=Andrew |last=Jacobs |title=Cadaver Exhibition Raises Questions Beyond Taste |url= |work=The New York Times |date=2005-11-18 |accessdate=2008-09-17] Professor Anita Allen, a University of Pennsylvania bioethicist, argued spending money to "gawk" at human remains should raise serious concerns. [cite news |first=Mike |last=Cronin |title=Science Center's 'Bodies' exhibit controversial |url= |work=Pittsburgh Tribune-Review |date=2007-09-07 |accessdate=2008-09-17] Thomas Hibbs, Baylor University ethicist, compares cadaver displays to pornography in that they reduce the subject to "the manipulation of body parts stripped of any larger human significance." [cite journal |first=Thomas S. |last=Hibbs |year=2007 |month=Winter |title=Dead Body Porn |journal=New Atlantis magazine |volume=15 |pages=128–131 |url= |accessdate=2008-09-17] Even if consent were to be obtained, Rabbi Danny Schiff maintains that we should still question what providing "bodies arranged in showcases for a hungry public" says about a society. [cite news |first=Danny |last=Schiff |title=Sunday Forum: BODIES - Don't go |url= |work=Pittsburgh Post-Gazette |date=2007-10-14 |accessdate=2008-09-17] Harry Wu, a long-time human rights activist, terms the practice of obtaining exhibit specimens from China "immoral" and describes how the Chinese label of 'unclaimed' on bodies may imply that families were not notified of the death. [cite news |first=Penni |last=Crabtree |title=Bodies bring in the bucks |url= |work=The San Diego Union-Tribune |date=2007-05-24 |accessdate=2008-09-17]

Regarding the educational concerns around these exhibits, St. Louis Diocese Archbishop Raymond Burke directs Catholic Schools there to avoid field trips, citing serious questions for Catholics. [cite news |author=KTVI |title=No Body World Exhibit For Catholic Field Trips |url= |publisher=Fox Television Stations |date=2007-08-28 |accessdate=2008-09-17] Prior to the exhibit's opening in Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese endorsed the educational content of the exhibition, while noting that it would not be appropriate for everyone and welcoming continued discourse regarding the place of such exhibits in society. [cite press release |url= |title=Statement From The Diocese of Pittsburgh on 'Bodies…The Exhibition' |date=2007-09-14 |publisher=Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh] Rev. Daniel Pilarczyk, Archbishop of Cincinnati, issued a statement: "I do not believe that this exhibit is an appropriate destination for field trips by our Catholic schools." [ link|date=September 2008]

In 2006, citing concern over how "some kids will process these images," Abbotsford, British Columbia School Superintendent Des McKay barred field trips to exhibits of plasticized human beings. [cite news |first=Susan |last=Lazaruk |title=Abbotsford schools barred from taking ghoulish field trip |url= |work=The Province |date=2006-10-01 |accessdate=2008-09-17] In an editorial, Lutheran Reverend Christoph Reiners questioned the effect on the values of children. [cite news |first=Christoph |last=Reiners |title=Body worlds objectifies humanity |url= |work=Abbotsford News |date=2006-09-19 |accessdate=2008-09-17] Elaine Catz, who helped coordinate field trips for the Carnegie Science Center prior to resigning in June 2007, maintains "it teaches that, once he is deceased, there is nothing wrong with taking a person's body without his consent; it teaches that there is nothing wrong with exploiting the dead in order to make a profit, as long as it is in the name of science or education or art. It teaches that it is incredibly easy to dehumanize others."


External links

* [ Official website] (most of the site requires Macromedia Flash)
* [ Bodies Exhibit at South Street Seaport: MondoMap]
* [ No Bodies 4 Profit protest website]
* [ Anti-BODIES Virtual Protest Site]
* [ DignityinBoston Protest website]
* [ Protest in Columbus OH, video.]
* [,0,2070702.story California Assembly approves legislation to ensure prior consent]
* [ Church of England, Manchester UK website. "Giving you the facts that the corpse show industry would rather you did not think about"]

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