The smuggled bodies of Body Worlds Tour 2 coming to Philadelphia
The Frankin Institute Science Museum will host the controversial (and if you ask me, reprehensible) Gunther Von Hagens’s Body Worlds: The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies, from October 7, 2005 to April 23, 2006.
The primary goal of BODY WORLDS and BODY WORLDS 2 is health education. On the one hand, 200 individual specimens are used to compare healthy and diseased organs, i.e., a healthy lung with that of a smoker, to emphasize the importance of a healthy life-style. On the other hand, 25 life-like posed whole-body plastinates illustrate where in our bodies these organs are positioned and what we are: naturally fragile in a mechanized world.
Thus, the exhibitions are targeted mainly at a lay audience to open up the opportunity to better understand the human body and its functions.
Sounds interesting enough. Then, why do I say this is reprehensible? Ah, because it possibly includes the bodies of people executed by Communist China. Lost Budgie Blog has been looking into this very distinct possibility: (emphasis mine)
A Toronto Star newspaper article gloss glosses over past allegations against the show’s creator, Gunther Von Hagens, stating that he was “vindicated” by German prosecutors.
Lost Budgie’s enquiries show anything but “vindication”. On January 22, 2004, during a Body Worlds show in London, England, Von Hagens was forced to return seven corpses to China when a Chinese employee let it slip that two “fresh” executed persons of the “highest quality” were used in displays.
Von Hagens pleaded ignorance about the corpses exhibiting “head wounds” – a euphamism [sic] for “bullet holes in the skull”.
. . .
Von Hagens now lives in the Chinese city of Dalian where his company employs more than 200 people to dissect and preserve corpses. Business is booming, with the travelling shows providing only a part of the revenues derived from the sale of body parts. The company also sells whole cadavers and body parts to medical and educational institutions.
For Von Hagens to locate his business in China and to partner with the Communist Chinese government makes perfect sense – given that the Chinese Communists already sell the organs of executed Chinese for medical transplants, and use the skin harvested from the corpses of executed convicts to manufacture cosmetics.
. . .
UPDATE: September 28, 2005
An accomplice of Body Worlds owner Gunther Von Hagens has just been convicted in Russia of illegally smuggling corpses to Von Hagens in Germany in 2001. Dr. Vladimir Novosyolov, head of criminal pathology in Novosibirsk, falsely told relatives of the dead that their loved ones had been cremated, and then charged them for “the ashes”. He shipped fifty-six stolen bodies to von Hagens’s Institute of Plastination in Heidelberg, Germany.
Some relatives are still trying to recover their loved ones’ bodies from Von Hagens.
(More on the Russian connection here)
Lost Budgie has been banned in Communist China.
Back in 2003 a top Kyrgyz medical official was fired amid rumours that the bodies in the Body Worlds show were obtained illegally in Kyrgyzstan.
Last year, Gunther Von Hagen was fined 144,000 euros (£96,000) (approx. $170,000) for using the title Professor:
His title was awarded by a Chinese university – but the University of Heidelberg complained that he gave the impression he got it in Germany.
Michael Browning of the Palm Beach Post has more on the Chinese corpse trade.