Friday, August 22, 2008


California recently passed legislation that would ban the controversial BODIES ... The Exhibition from being presented in the state. A version of this exhibit is currently on display at the (otherwise wonderful) Cincinnati Museum Center. I've refrained from attending (here and in Columbus) for the same reasons that California lawmakers have decided to say hell with it: the exhibition's company, Premier, doesn't have proof that every body was obtained with the informed consent of the deceased person or next of kin.

In an interview for 20/20 in February, former Premier Chairman Arnie Geller, who resigned following the report, told ABC News he was appalled at the allegations that some of the bodies from his Chinese suppliers might be those of executed prisoners.

He said his own medical staff had seen no such evidence and that his suppliers have assured him that "these are all legitimate, unclaimed bodies that have gone through Dalian Medical University."

That they might be political prisoners is important, but it's not even my main concern. That these were "unclaimed" bodies indicates to me that a) they were indigents or b) their relatives were unable to pay for funeral expenses and chose not to claim them. If either case is true, then these individuals occupied the extreme lower end of the socioeconomic scale. Is it somehow okay to use their bodies this way? Absolutely not - there's no way of knowing what their wishes would have been. Absence of refusal does not signify consent. Furthermore, it seems to me that the unnamed "suppliers" are taking advantage of a relatively powerless population.

If done correctly, these exhibits are a valuable educational resource. However, displays should be limited to the bodies of informed, consenting adults.

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