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Last Updated: Monday, 15 May 2006, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
Body parts shows to need licences
Gunther von Hagens with one of his exhibits
Claims about bodies being shown without consent emerged in 2003
Shows like the controversial Bodies Exhibition which put human tissue on display will have to be licensed from this autumn, regulators have said.

The Human Tissue Authority will ask show organisers to meet standards on public safety and appropriateness.

Crucially exhibitors will have to show they have consent to display the bodies of the people they are showing.

It comes after organisers of a show in London denied exhibiting the bodies of Chinese political prisoners.

What concerns us is that bodies or body parts are treated with respect and with appropriate dignity
Adrian McNeil
Human Tissue Authority

The organisers of the Bodies... the Exhibition, which displays 22 whole body specimens and more than 260 organs, strenuously denied claims the corpses used were of members of the Falun Gong sect persecuted in China.

Organisers Premier Exhibitions insisted they exercised "due diligence" and acquired the body parts from "appropriate sources".

"We have written indemnities, and we visited China on several occasions to ensure that the sourcing process is both legal and moral, prior to curating the exhibition," they said in a statement.

The bodies they show have been preserved using a special plastination technique using liquid plastic and developed by controversial German scientist Gunther Von Hagens.

He hit the headlines in 2003 when he was accused of illegally obtaining bodies sold by psychiatric and general hospitals, a prison and a medical faculty in China and Kyrgyzstan.


Although the following year he was cleared of the claims, his Body Worlds exhibition, which included the body of pregnant mother and a horse, has caused a stir in many countries.

He also courted controversy by performing an autopsy in front of a live audience.

The Human Tissue Authority ( HTA) now says organisers of any show involving bodies, body parts or human tissue less than 100 years old will have to meet licensing conditions from 1 September.

Chief executive of the HTA Adrian McNeil said: "In all the activities across our remit, what concerns us is that bodies or body parts are treated with respect and with appropriate dignity.

"If the person applying for a licence for the display can show that proper consent has been given and the other licensing requirements are met or being worked towards, then there is no reason why a licence should not be issued."

Informed consent

It is now consulting on a draft code of practice for licensing such exhibitions under the Human Tissue Act 2004.

These will include issues around public safety, appropriate display premises and consent.

Under the Human Tissue Act, public display of a whole body, body parts, or tissue also requires the consent of the person to whom it belongs, whether they are living or deceased.

The draft code being consulted upon says: "At the heart of the Human Tissue Act is the requirement that consent be obtained for the removal, storage and use of any relevant material which has come form a human body for certain scheduled purposes."

It adds: "This code is intended to foster the underlying assumption of the Act that all human bodies, body parts and tissue within the Act's scope would be treated with appropriate respect and dignity."

The code says consent can only be given by someone who is "appropriately informed" and has the capacity to agree to the proposed activity.

The consultation peried ends on 28 June.

Body doctor cleared over corpses
10 Mar 04 |  Entertainment

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