BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  Entertainment: Arts
Front Page 
UK Politics 
TV and Radio 
New Media 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Tuesday, 12 March, 2002, 11:28 GMT
MPs condemn body parts show
The exhibition features whole corpses and body parts
The exhibition features whole corpses and body parts
Two MPs have joined the row over an exhibition that will show dozens of human corpses and body parts, describing it as "shameful" and "ghoulish".

Professor von Hagens
Professor von Hagens said he wants to "democratise anatomy"
Body Worlds, due to open in London later this month, features 175 body parts and 25 corpses - including the body of a pregnant woman, her womb opened to reveal a seven-month old foetus.

The government has already said it may take legal action because the show may contravene a 19th century dissection law.

Conservative MP Sir Teddy Taylor said: "What possible benefit can a normal person gain from looking at dead bodies?"

It was "one of the most objectionable and shameful proposals I have ever seen," he said.

This will appeal only to ghoulish groups in our society

Sir Teddy Taylor MP
"While there may be some merit in looking at a corpse in an Egyptian tomb for historians, I really feel it is appalling to have art galleries used for such things.

"This will appeal only to ghoulish groups in our society."

He said he hoped the government would make it clear that the proposal was unlawful and "unacceptable in a civilised society".


The government's Inspector of Anatomy, Dr Jeremy Metters, is considering whether the exhibition contravenes the 1832 Anatomy Act, which deals with the dissection of human bodies.

There is no dignity to human life and the only object is to shock

Anthony Steen MP
The exhibition has been created by Professor Gunther von Hagens, of the University of Heidelberg in Germany.

He has said he wants to "democratise anatomy" and let people see things that only professionals had been able to view before.

Another Conservative MP, Anthony Steen, said his reaction was one of horror.

"It is as if nothing is sacrosanct any more. There is no dignity to human life and the only object is to shock," he said.


"I do not think art galleries do themselves any favours by encouraging the most revolting and degrading aspects of human nature."

If allowed to go ahead, it should be boycotted, he said, but would still attract "ghouls".

The proposed show has already received complaints from parents of children whose organs were secretly removed after their deaths at the Alder Hey children's hospital.

John O'Hare, chairman of pressure group Pity II (Parents who have Interred Their Youngsters Twice) told the London Evening Standard: "To put this exhibition on is tasteless and insensitive to the suffering of all of the parents who are still going through so much trauma."


A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "This does raise some new legal issues and we are looking into them as quickly as possible.

"We are in touch with him about the licensing requirements of the Anatomy Act."

We have faced legal challenges from other countries in Europe which have all failed

Professor Gunther von Hagens
But Professor von Hagens, who is a doctor and professor of anatomy, said that he was "completely confident" that the show would not break UK law.

"It deals with the handling of human bodies for dissection, but we don't dissect them," he said.

"We have faced legal challenges from other countries in Europe which have all failed.

"We are not dealing with decay or rotting flesh. The human body is beautiful and in this exhibition it appears frozen in time."

The professor also said that, despite planning to stage the exhibition at an art gallery, he does not see the specimens as pieces of art.

"90% are donors who went to the exhibition when it was in Germany and wanted to donate their bodies," he said.

The exhibition is due to open at the Atlantis Gallery in Spitalfields, east London on 23 March.

Organisers say it has been seen by eight million people in countries including Japan, Switzerland, Austria and Germany so far.

See also:

30 Jan 02 | England
Art for heart's sake
15 Mar 99 | Sci/Tech
The art of anatomy
30 Jan 01 | Health
The Alder Hey report
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Arts stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Arts stories