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Wednesday, 20 March, 2002, 11:53 GMT
Corpse show not illegal
Professor von Hagens
Prof von Hagens says the show is educational
A controversial exhibition featuring human corpses has been given the go-ahead by the government.

Body Worlds, due to open in London on Saturday, features 175 body parts and 25 corpses - including the body of a pregnant woman, her womb opened to reveal a seven-month old foetus.

When creator Professor Gunther von Hagens announced his intention to bring the exhibition to the UK, MPs declared their disgust and the Government said it would check whether it contravened any laws.

But the Department of Health said no British law covers such an exhibition and it will open as planned at the Atlantis Gallery, Spitalfields, east London on Saturday.

The Body Show
The exhibition opens in London on 23 March

Other exhibits include a skinned man with his brain revealed and bodies cut in half.

All the bodies have been donated - some by people who saw the exhibition and wanted to become part of it after their death.

Draining fluids

The 1984 Anatomy Act covers dissection of bodies, but because Prof von Hagens used a process called plastination he has not contravened any laws.

The process, developed by the professor over the past 25 years, involves draining the body of fluids and replacing with a type of plastic which goes rigid, allowing the bodies to be exhibited in life-like poses.

Legal challenges have also failed in other countries, including Mr Von Hagens' native Germany.

Organisers say it has been seen by eight million people in countries including Japan, Switzerland, Austria and Germany so far.
Those who donated the bodies knew they would be appearing in the exhibition
Those who donated the bodies knew they would be displayed
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "Professor Von Hagens' exhibition raises some difficult points of law about the application of the Anatomy Act and the 1998 Human Rights Act.

"We have sought and received a detailed description of the process used by Professor Von Hagens.

"The Anatomy Act was not framed with cases such as the Body Works exhibition in mind. The legal position with regard to this exhibition is not clear cut and in the circumstances, the exhibition may proceed without the need for a licence under the act."


Since the announcement of the exhibition, the government has received complaints from parents caught up in the Alder Hey Hospital scandal.

Pauline and John O'Hare, whose 15-year-old daughter Kathryn had her organs removed by the Liverpool hospital without their consent after her death in 1993, lodged a complaint.

Mrs O'Hare said: "It is insensitive and inappropriate. I'm sure the government have explored every avenue but unfortunately there is nothing they can do.

"The best thing to do would be to ignore Professor von Hagens and his exhibition. If there is no profit in it for him then he won't come back."

Prof von Hagens
Prof von Hagens developed the process of plastination
Prof von Hagens has deflected criticisms levelled at the show. Detractors believe the exhibition is merely employing shock tactics for the sake of art.

"The main aim is to teach anatomy to the lay people, comparing normal and diseased organs to give them a better health awareness," Mr von Hagens told BBC News Online. "It reminds them of mortality, but in a decent way, not in a shocking way.

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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