A Tale of Two Exhibits
I had heard about the controversy surrounding BODIES: The Exhibition, currently at South Street Seaport in New York. Real human corpses! Skinned and playing soccer! Gross! Shocking! Cool! Controversial! Homeschooling parents, being conscientious and thorough as they are, asked the question that seemed to get lost in the media hype: From where do the bodies come? When I heard the answer from these parents, I was inclined to call the BODIES organizers, Premier Exhibitions, Inc., in Atlanta, Georgia for confirmation.
Me: Hi. My name is LaMai, and I am calling from New York City. I am an educator. I just have a question before we view Bodies: The Exhibition.
Premier Exhibitions, Inc., Lady: OK.
Me: Where does the exhibit come from?
PEIL: I am not sure that I understand your question.
Me: Okay. From where do the BODIES IN THE EXHIBIT come?
PEIL: Uh, China.
Me: I see.
PEIL: [pause] From the Dalian Medical Institute.
Me: Okay. Thank you for the information. That is all I needed to know.
For the bodies to be skinned, cross-sectioned, etc., medical doctors would necessarily perform those procedures. But how did the bodies get to Dalian Medical Institute? Did the the people in BODIES have informed consent to be used for educational purposes? Were they infirmed or in jail when they were alive (and if they were in jail, is it because they were thieves or because were prisoners of conscience)? Will the Chinese government share truthful information or (pardon the pun) doctor it, so that the exhibit can continue its tour?
Gunther von Hagens' BODYWORLDS is a similar exhibit, currently in Philadelphia. The difference is that the bodies - the people - in BODYWORLDS have given consent. Dr. von Hagens also meets with potential donors. Rumor is a lot of people want to be in von Hagens' exhibit, and there is a waiting list.