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Wednesday, 20 November, 2002, 10:13 GMT
Should the public autopsy go ahead?
Professor Gunther von Hagens
Professor Gunther von Hagens' work is controversial
A controversial German doctor says he will press ahead with plans for a public autopsy in London despite a warning that he could be breaking the law. Here, Professor Gunther von Hagens debates the merits of the project with a leading British anatomist.


Professor Gunther von Hagens, the creator of the controversial plastination technique and founder of the Bodyworlds exhibition:

"There is no law whatsoever that makes this public autopsy illegal.

"Nothing in the Anatomy Act applies to anything done for the purpose of a post mortem examination."

Professor von Hagens said the high level of interest among the public proved that he had widespread support.


What is shown here is the attitude of part of the medical elite who look down their nose at lay people

Professor Gunther von Hagens
"All the authorities tried to ban Bodyworlds, but 1% of the whole British population came to the exhibition.

"This is not a publicity stunt at all. After the tissue organ scandal, the Chief Medical Officer recommended that there should be a programme of public education to ensure that there is a general understanding of what is involved in a post mortem.

"What is better than to show the real thing?"

Professor von Hagens rejected accusations that he was simply holding the event for financial purposes.

"The cost of the ticket will not cover one tenth of my expenses.

"A survey of Bodyworlds visitors showed that 62% agreed their should be a public autopsy

"What is shown here is the attitude of part of the medical elite who look down their nose at lay people who are taxpayers who pay for pathologists."

Dr Roger Soames, of the British Association of Clinical Anatomists:

"My understanding is that to be able to use human material you need to have a licence to practice and you need to do it in licensed premises.


To take a post mortem out of the licensed premises and do it in a public place has ethical and moral implications

Dr Roger Soames
"We should not be able to see a post mortem carried out. When human material is used for teaching and medical science purposes that is controlled under the Human Anatomy Act.

"To take a post mortem out of the licensed premises and do it in a public place has ethical and moral implications.

"I can understand why some people would want to go, there is a certain curiosity because most of the public is fascinated by the way their body works.

"I just think that the way Professor von Hagens is going about this issue is the wrong way.

"Yes, there does need to be a debate about educating the public, or giving them access somehow to learning more about their own bodies

"But I am not convinced this is the way to do it."

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20 Nov 02 | Health
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