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Friday, 15 November, 2002, 18:10 GMT
Russia corpse case goes to trial
Body Worlds exhibition
None of the corpses feature in the London show
A Russian court has held preliminary hearings in the trial of a forensic surgeon accused of illegally supplying corpses to controversial German anatomist Gunther von Hagens.


Bitter experience has taught me never again to accept anatomical specimens from other universities

Professor von Hagens

Prosecutors in Novosibirsk, Western Siberia, believe that surgeon Vladimir Novoselov exported at least eight bodies without the permission of relatives.

They were reportedly informed that the bodies had been cremated.

Professor von Hagens, the organiser of a touring exhibition of corpses and body parts, says he has not used any body parts from Russia illegally.

He said he only accepted human remains from the Novosibirsk State Medical Academy (NSMA) as part of a scientific exchange.

The professor is due to be summoned as a witness in Mr Novoselov's trial which is due to begin in full on Wednesday.

Vladimir Novoselov, the head of the forensic science office of Novosibirsk Province, faces a minimum prison sentence of three years if convicted. According to prosecutors:

  • Mr Novoselov abused his authority to force hospitals in the province to send dead bodies unclaimed by relatives to his office.

  • Eight of the bodies were claimed by relatives after the deadline for keeping corpses in morgues had elapsed but the corpses had already been sent to the Institute for Plastination in Heidelberg.

  • The treatment of the bodies in Germany, where they reportedly arrived unidentified along with 440 brain segments, means that they cannot now be identified.

Charges were brought in April 2001, Prosecutor Yevgeni Gosteyev, who heads the investigation, told the Russian newspaper Izvestia.

Related charges against another 14 other medical officials in Novosibirsk have since been dropped.

'Quality study aids'

Professor von Hagens denies using any body parts from Russia illegally and says none of the Russian specimens is included in his current London exhibition entitled Body Worlds.

According to Izvestia, he said he had stopped working with the NSMA.

Plastination
Preserves bodies in a lifelike way
Body Worlds presents flayed bodies in lifelike poses
"Bitter experience has taught me never again to accept anatomical specimens from other universities," he was quoted as saying.

The academy's rector, Anatoli Yefremov, has defended the German professor's work, saying that any institute would be honoured to work with him.

He said that the samples his academy would have received as part of the exchange would have provided Russian medical students with "quality study aids".

Mr Yefremov added that Russian police, customs officials and government officials had overseen the dispatch of the disputed corpses in October 2000 but only chose to act over six months later.

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.

See also:

17 Mar 99 | Middle East
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