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Saturday, 20 July, 2002, 09:24 GMT 10:24 UK
Russians charged over body parts
Body Worlds exhibition
The exhibition has receive mixed reviews
Russian prosecutors have charged two medical officials in Siberia in connection with a shipment of 56 bodies to an institute run by the German anatomist, Gunther von Hagens, the organiser of a controversial exhibition displaying corpses and body parts.

The two men are accused of violating a law governing the treatment of corpses, by taking the bodies without the permission of relatives, the Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports.


I did the most I could do to ensure those specimens were received in good order according to the laws of the Russian republic

Professor Gunther von Hagens
Mr von Hagens - whose exhibition Body Worlds is currently showing in London - says he has not used any body parts from Russia illegally.

Professor von Hagens said he had agreed with the University of Novosibirsk to treat the bodies in his institute in the German city of Heidelberg using a special technique for preservation, and to return them to Siberia so that they could be used for medical research.

'Nothing wrong'

The paper said the two Russian doctors were charged after an investigation that began last year when customs officials stopped the shipment heading to Mr von Hagens' Institute for Plastination.

Dr Gunther von Hagens
Prof von Hagens says his work is art

The consignment allegedly included the remains of convicts and homeless and mentally ill Russians.

Fourteen medical officials were reportedly put under investigation over the shipment sent by the Novosibirsk State Medical Academy, but only two were charged.

Investigators suspected that some of the bodies were taken without the permission of relatives, the paper quoted Natalya Markasova, senior aide to the chief regional prosecutor, as saying.

Mr von Hagens denies using any body parts from Russia illegally. None of the Russian specimens - said to include 56 corpses and more than 400 brain parts - was included in his London exhibition, he said.

"I did the most I could do to ensure those specimens were received in good order according to the laws of the Russian republic," he said. "Those people on display gave their agreement."

Criticism

Professor von Hagens uses a special technique called plastination to preserve bodies in a lifelike way.

He then places them in poses, which graphically show internal body parts and organs.

The Body Worlds exhibition has provoked criticism as sensational and voyeuristic. Soon after opening in March, one of the displays was attacked.

But its creator says his work is educational and artistic because "when you can see beneath your skin you can see how fragile you are.

"You can see healthy organs compared to diseased organs like smokers' lungs," he says.

See also:

29 Mar 01 | Media reports
17 Mar 99 | Middle East
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