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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 February 2008, 19:47 GMT
Bishop condemns corpse exhibition
Body Works 4 exhibit (photo courtesy of MEN Syndication)
Gunther Von Hagens' exhibitions have attracted record crowds
The Bishop of Manchester has condemned an exhibition made up of preserved human corpses, claiming it is a "kind of freaky horror show".

The Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch believes Body Worlds 4 at Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) "diminishes the value of people".

The display features skinless preserved bodies in an array of athletic poses.

The bishop is also concerned over free entry to the display for under fives. MOSI said this was standard policy.

'Spiritual outlook'

Bishop McCulloch said: "My concern is that the bodies of people who have lived lives, some of whom, I suspect, with quite a bit of suffering, are simply being used effectively for a kind of freaky horror show.

Bishop of Manchester, Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch
It's really important that you treat the human body with a great deal of respect
The Bishop of Manchester

"It's really important that you treat the human body with a great deal of respect.

"I think children in particular, especially if they are under the age of five, if they go into this exhibition, I think their whole spiritual outlook begins to become very confused by what is being done to a body.

"That seems to me to diminish the value of other people, which I think is quite a serious spiritual issue, because, for a child under five, that could badly steer their view of people in the wrong direction."

However, Tony Hill, MOSI's acting director, said that although the museum's policy has always been to allow under 5s into exhibitions for free, they are only "actively promoting" the exhibition to children of 11 and over.

Record visitors

He also defended the controversial exhibition, saying: "Gunther Von Hagens' Body Worlds has always provoked debate, and I think it is very relevant that a science museum such as ours hosts this kind of groundbreaking exhibition.

"As well as being a fascinating insight into the human body, the exhibition is very educational, as it demonstrates to people the impact of unhealthy lifestyles on our bodies."

Body Worlds 4 is the latest project by German anatomist Gunther Von Hagens, who uses a process called "plastination" which he developed in 1977, to preserve and display human bodies.

Despite causing controversy, his shows have attracted 25 million visitors globally - more than any other touring exhibition.

His Body Worlds exhibition, which featured more than 200 plastinated bodies and organs, attracted 850,000 visitors when it was staged in London for a year from March 2002.

Shock tactics

The plastination process involves replacing the natural body fluids with synthetic materials such as silicone rubber, epoxy resin or polyester. Once preserved, the bodies are highly durable, but still retain the natural surface structure.

Von Hagens' work has attracted criticism for being shocking, and blurring the boundaries between science and entertainment.

However, the anatomist is adamant the exhibitions he stages have a purpose.

"I in no way want to shock the British public," he said. "I want to educate them.

"It is certainly not an art show, it is an educational show, it is meant to give enlightenment."

Body Worlds 4 opens on 22 February.

Bishop's fear for 'spiritual welfare' of children

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