Exhibits in body show may have been executed
A GERMAN anatomist whose exhibits of preserved, partially dissected corpses have drawn crowds and controversy in Europe and Asia has said he will return seven Chinese bodies for burial because he can’t prove they were not executed.
Gunther von Hagens was responding to charges made by the German news weekly Der Spiegel, which reported this week that at least two corpses among 647 stored by the anatomist at his centre in China had bullet holes in their skulls.
"I have told my Chinese employees that they can’t accept bodies that were executed," von Hagens said. "I can’t prove the bodies weren’t executed, but I believe they weren’t."
Von Hagens said he receives bodies in China through local officials, and can’t always be sure of their origins. He said he was made aware only last week that seven corpses had head injuries, adding that the cause of the injuries was not clear.
His centre in Dalian has about 30 employees who preserve bodies and body parts for study at universities and for his travelling exhibition, which has been seen by about 13.8 million people in countries including Britain, Japan, Korea, and Germany.
The show includes a series of corpses in poses to show how the muscles work: one figure rides a rearing horse, in another, a pregnant woman reclines.
He said the "whole bodies" that appear in his shows have been donated by people who have signed releases.
Von Hagens was accused in 2001 of using a body from a Russian prisoner. He said the corpse was a German man who had donated his body.
Controversy has dogged von Hagens since the inception of his Body Worlds exhibits, with protesters claiming that his work is insulting to the dead and in bad taste. The show in Frankfurt, which opened last week, was met with criticism by the Lutheran church, which promised a prayer vigil and a series of lectures in response.
At a London show, two visitors vandalised parts of the exhibit on separate occasions, and in Munich last year, city leaders would only allow the show after von Hagens agreed to remove some of the more dramatic exhibits, including a corpse posed like a fencer.
Von Hagens says his show, comprising 175 healthy and diseased bodies and body parts, is meant to make human anatomy accessible to a larger population.
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