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Tuesday, 12 March, 2002, 16:11 GMT
Controversial body show defended
The exhibition features whole corpses and body parts
Almost eight million people have seen the exhibition
A controversial exhibition of human corpses and body parts is "hugely educational" and "utterly fascinating", according to a European Parliament member who has seen it.

Body Worlds, which features 175 body parts and 25 corpses, has been described as "shameful" and "ghoulish" by two Conservative MPs at Westminster.

It is due to open in London later this month after already being seen by almost eight million people around the world.

Professor von Hagens
Professor von Hagens created the show to "democratise anatomy"
Chris Davies, Liberal Democrat MEP for the North West England, said the two Conservative MPs "haven't seen it so they don't actually know what they're talking about".

"I've been there with my wife and 10-year-old daughter amongst the hundreds of thousands of people in Brussels who went to see it," he told BBC News Online.

"Everyone came away feeling that they had learned a lot about the human body. It is basically an anatomical exhibition."

Some 5% of the Belgian population - 505,000 people - saw it in Brussels, with five-hour queues to get in.

Chris Davies MEP
Chris Davies MEP said the show was not gruesome but "very medical"
In it, the corpses are shown with their skin stripped off and a variety of body parts, such as arteries and nerves, on view.

It includes a pregnant woman with her womb opened to reveal a seven-month old foetus and two people riding a horse, also stripped of its skin.

Mr Davies, a member of the European Parliament's public health committee, said it was not gruesome but "very medical" and "the most fascinating anatomical exhibition of all time".

He and his family learned a lot about the body, he said, adding that he hoped that the blackened lungs on show would put his daughter off smoking.

Whatever the sensational elements of the exhibition, it is without doubt hugely educational

Chris Davies MEP
The people who donated their full bodies knew they would be part of the exhibition, while the owners of the individual body parts had donated their bodies to medical science or education.

"If people gave their body for educational purposes, then I think their wishes have been fully respected," Mr Davies said.

"Whatever the sensational elements of the exhibition, it is without doubt hugely educational."

Conservative MPs Sir Teddy Taylor and Anthony Steen had condemned the show as "unacceptable in a civilised society".

The show has already been a hit around the world
The show has already been a hit around the world
"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," Sir Teddy said.

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

The government has said organisers may face legal action if it contravenes the 1832 Anatomy Act, which deals with the dissection of human bodies.

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.

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

See also:

12 Mar 02 | Arts
MPs condemn body parts show
30 Jan 02 | England
Art for heart's sake
15 Mar 99 | Sci/Tech
The art of anatomy
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