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Old 07-10-2006, 09:08 AM   #1
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I don't think there's ever been a thread about this here before, maybe I'm wrong and there has been. Has anyone ever seen this? Would you be interested in seeing it? Is it for shock and "amusement" or does it have educational value-is it an assault on human dignity? Would you donate your body? Then there are the issues surrounding how he obtains the bodies.

I am interested in the science of the human body and it is quite an amazing an artful creation, but I can't imagine ever being able to stomach this personally.

http://www.boston.com/news/education...ts_you?mode=PF

GUBEN, Germany -- Dr. Gunther von Hagens, the German inventor of a body-preserving process called plastination, is always eager for volunteers, people willing to donate their corpses for his public anatomical displays. He says 6,800 individuals have pledged their mortal coils so far .

He hopes to add to that list when his traveling show reaches Boston later this month.

``Think of it as an alternative to being eaten by worms or going up in smoke," von Hagens said by phone from his Institute for Plastination in Heidelberg, Germany.

A donor might wind up as an exotic medical specimen (sliced, for example, into 1-millimeter-thick translucent body ``sheets") or as a featured whole-body exhibit in his occasionally condemned but wildly popular road show...


``My aim is to illuminate and educate through the beautiful arrangement" of bodies, he said. The 61-year-old physician, university lecturer, and anatomist-cum-artist's exhibitions of plasticized, partially dissected bodies -- an expectant mother cross-sectioned to reveal her unborn child, a man peeled to his musculature, carrying his skin like an old raincoat -- hover somewhere between the sublime and the unspeakable.

The Body Worlds exhibitions have attracted more than 18 million visitors on three continents and grossed an estimated $200 million, according to organizers. They also have been controversial: Police and prosecutors in at least four countries have investigated allegations -- none proven -- that von Hagens has purchased cadavers from grave robbers, prison wardens, bribed medical examiners, and other unsavory purveyors.

The Boston show, according to a museum handout, will include ``more than 200 real human specimens" -- that is, whole humans and parts -- peeled, plucked, and flayed to reveal the workings of nerves, tendons, blood systems, bones, and organs. All the exhibits have been preserved through the patented process von Hagens created in 1977, which involves ridding bodies of every ounce of fluid and soluble fat, then infusing them with silicon substances that impart indefinite life to dead tissue.

To admirers, von Hagens's work is reminiscent of great Renaissance artists whose dissections of cadavers -- undertaken to better understand the body's form for art's sake -- led to greater understanding about how the body functions. Detractors compare him to carnival hucksters who invariably tout as ``educational" their ghoulish displays of pickled fetuses, shrunken skulls, and yellowed skeletons.

``There's a darkness to this man, an infatuation with death that goes beyond scientific curiosity," said Reiner Fuellmich, a German lawyer who has represented a Russian woman, Svetlana Kretshetova, who believes her father's body was sold illegally to von Hagens as part of the case involving the medical examiner. ``It has never been proven that he's done anything illegal. But he keeps showing up in the gray areas."

`Every good teacher has to be something of a showman," he said. ``Certainly, there is `shock value' in these exhibits. But that doesn't take away from the lessons they hold about how the body works and how plastination allows people to see this marvel. The slices [of whole bodies] are as radiant and beautiful as a church's stained glass window."

Asked how long a plastinated body might survive, von Hagens said ``forever."

``Well, thousands upon thousands of years, anyway," he said. ``Longer than the Egyptian mummies. My process is superior."
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Old 07-10-2006, 11:01 AM   #2
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I saw the thing about two years ago. I think that he might have expanded his collection a bit since I didn't see the man carrying his own skin .

It was unpleasant to be sure but I don't recall it being ghoulish. I found it rather informative - it's really not any worse than what you encounter during an average anatomy course. The real question is about human dignity because there will always be people who see it as a sideshow and don't appreciate the selfless donation involved.
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Old 07-10-2006, 11:25 AM   #3
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I wouldn't want to be reminded of my anatomy class. We were the only undergraduates in the state of Alabama studying cavadars.
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Old 07-10-2006, 12:09 PM   #4
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I'm not sure why it's considered "art" rather than science, but it sounds pretty interesting to me. It doesn't seem any more gross than our local museum which has always displayed a set of jars, each containing a real embryo or fetus a few weeks older than the previous. If people are voluntarily donating their bodies, I would consider this less controversial than most ancient mummies that appear in circulation, many of which were stolen from graves in Egypt and then circulated in western Europe.
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Old 07-10-2006, 12:16 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by LivLuvAndBootlegMusic
I'm not sure why it's considered "art" rather than science, but it sounds pretty interesting to me. It doesn't seem any more gross than our local museum which has always displayed a set of jars, each containing a real embryo or fetus a few weeks older than the previous. If people are voluntarily donating their bodies, I would consider this less controversial than most ancient mummies that appear in circulation, many of which were stolen from graves in Egypt and then circulated in western Europe.
It's science but still more grahpic somehow. A traditionally preserved body looks grey and lifeless. These ones look far more alive.

As for the mummy thing: I agree. It struck me the first time when I visited a viking gravesite in Yorkshire. I realised that I might be looking at my great-great-etc-great-grandfather.
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Old 07-10-2006, 02:19 PM   #6
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There are photos here of what they look like, they're graphic so don't click if you don't wish to see

http://www.bodyworlds.com/en/pages/home.asp
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Old 07-10-2006, 02:49 PM   #7
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I think its facinating...its werid I was JUST thinking about this in the shower this morning.

did you see the guy on the horse...amazing! I see nothing wrong with it..its what we are, I am interested to see whats under the skin. I can understand why some people wouldn't want to though.
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Old 07-11-2006, 11:27 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by silja


It's science but still more grahpic somehow. A traditionally preserved body looks grey and lifeless. These ones look far more alive.

More graphic than science in general? I don't follow.

I clicked on the links and it only made me more interested. This isn't even one tenth as graphic as any of the stuff I had to see in undergrad criminal investigations classes. I'd MUCH prefer to see life-like, yet preserved, human forms than images of brain matter blown out of someone's head onto the wall, burnt bodies missing limbs, etc. And that stuff, we see it EVERY DAY in Time magazine, on CNN, but we've become so desensitized to it that now all the sudden these great ways of visualizing and learning about the human body are somehow "too graphic" for us? I'm lost.
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Old 07-11-2006, 03:28 PM   #9
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Ehrm, I meant more graphic than tissue preserved in formalin. Sorry, that sentence doesn't make much sense now that I read it.
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