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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 November, 2004, 13:32 GMT
Channel 4 to screen bodily decay
Professor Gunther von Hagens
Professor Gunther von Hagens' live autopsy caused a furore
Channel 4 is searching for volunteers to take part in a documentary which will show the decomposition of their bodies when they die.

The documentary, the first of its kind in the UK, will be produced in conjunction with London's Science Museum and supervised by scientists.

The experiment will need the full consent of the donor and their family.

The controversial programme, Dust to Dust, was announced as part of Channel 4's forthcoming winter season.

Channel 4 says the documentary, which will take place in a "secure and secret location", will help forensic pathologists with their work.

It has to be completely above board. There will be nothing salacious about it
Kevin Lygo

"This is a scientific experiment," said Kevin Lygo, Channel 4 Director of Television.

"It's an absolutely valid subject to examine death and see what happens to the body."

He added: "The scientific community admits that they are woefully uninformed about what happens to the body when somebody dies."

Channel 4 attracted criticism when it screened an autopsy performed by German scientist Gunther von Hagens in 2002.

Anticipating more criticism, My Lygo said the programme had to be "completely above board".

"There will be nothing salacious about it."

But he added: "We don't mind controversy."

Urgent step

Senior forensic pathologist and president of the British Association in Forensic Medicine, Dr Richard Shepherd, will coordinate a team of scientists who will design and supervise the experiment.

I am pleased beyond belief that Channel 4 has seen fit to broadcast my perverted little work
Julie Burchill

"In my opinion, this project represents an urgently required step forward for forensic medical research in this country."

Other highlights of Channel 4's winter season include Anatomy for Beginners, a four-part series which sees Von Hagens perform human dissection in a German lecture theatre, and a dramatisation of Julie Burchill's novel Sugar Rush.

The novel follows a teenage schoolgirl who develops a crush on her best friend. A spokeswoman confirmed the drama will include lesbian sex scenes.

"I am pleased beyond belief that Channel 4 has seen fit to broadcast my perverted little work - I happily anticipate outrage from middle England and fan mail from underage girls," said Ms Burchill.

"Sugar Rush is a frank and unabashed voyage into modern teenage life - love, sex and family as we've never shown it before," said Lucy Richer, commissioning editor for Channel 4.

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