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Controversial Bodies Controversial fascinating disturbing and often beautiful plastinated human bodies—such as those found at Body Worlds exhibitions throughout the world—have gripped the public's imagination These displays have been lauded as educational sparked protests and drawn millions of visitors This book looks at the powerful sway these corpses hold over their living audiences everywherePlastination was invented in the 1970s by German anatomist Gunther von Hagens The process transforms living tissues into moldable plastic that can then be hardened into a permanent shape Von Hagens first exhibited his expertly dissected artfully posed plastinated bodies in Japan in 1995 Since then his shows have continuously attracted so many paying customers that they have inspired imitators brought accusations of unethical or even illegal behavior and ignited vigorous debates among scientists educators religious leaders and law enforcement officialsThese lively thought provoking and sometimes personal essays reflect on such public displays from ethical legal cultural religious pedagogical and aesthetic perspectives They examine what lies behind the exhibitions' popularity and explore the ramifications of turning corpses into a spectacle of amusement Contributions from bioethicists historians physicians anatomists theologians and novelists dig deeply into issues that compel upset and unsettle us all

About the Author: John D. Lantos

John D Lantos is Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Missouri at Kansas City and Director of the Children's Mercy Hospital Bioethics Center

1 thoughts on “Controversial Bodies

  1. Michelle Michelle says:

    This will be a long review comments because it was an extremely thought provoking book Read on if you're preparedI can see that this subject would be uite controversial I saw this exhibit at the War Memorial in Seoul ROK in March this year Body Worlds 5 in 2012 for 10000 won about 10There is tons of information to donate your body to this kind of procedure and exhibit as well as legal forms one must fill out I think what this book will address is the wider issues people have with this exhibition namely is it moral? Should these really be public versus used in educational settings such as medical school dissection studies? At this point I think that it would be better to keep them in an environment where proper respect of their bodies could be accorded not with sensationalism but with awe and gratitude for this ability to see inside the human body without first cutting into a cadaver I think it really doesn't come home to visitors that all these bodies and pieces came from someone just as alive as you onceP2 Von Hagens offered to sell plastinated parts as decoration Reportedly or not that is pretty sick Worse than a human skull by leaguesP3 I agree with the bioethicist that said that human beings even as corpses should not be bought or sold I also agree that the exhibition should be regarded as a scientific one not art or amusement I went into this exhibition as if I was going to a science one but I can tell looking back now that some of the advertising and some of the visitors came for the sake of naughty amusement comments I overheard This is why the torture museum and sex machine museum are so popular in Prague Also popular the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia likely originally created to educate is clearly in it for the amusement business alsoP4 When I read the comments of religious leaders I remember all the churches or burial grounds that have been decorated with skeletons and parts of skeletons The Bone Church in a city outside Prague and the capuchin tombs in Rome and I think that they should not be too outraged or shocked Who's to say there is some huge difference both involve the dead and both entertain visitors outside of the perhaps intended purpose of the exhibitAlong with one of the religious leaders they mention I believe this kind of exhibit can help us wake up to the marvel of our human bodies and to take better care of itI can't help but think as I read how different it is now from the 19th century and earlier times where having ones body dissected was a horrible thought so horrible that it was reserved for those criminals sentenced to die by being drawn and uartered Some believed this would condemn you from spiritual salvation as well Now it seems many eagerly sign up for this chance Lets just say its hard for me to even agree to be an organ doner much less getting plastinated and molded in whatever form that catches the fancy of my transformer and knowing that my earthly shell will exist for who knows how long instead of decaying like normalP5 I am not surprised that having controversy surrounding something or having something banned increases that thing's popularity We have always and predictably desire that forbidden fruit Unless there is something else holding us back we will fatefully do what we're not supposed to do Being good has not been our natural characteristic since we first came into being; the perpetual curious catRegarding how corpses have been obtained in possibly illicit ways that particular crime is as old as the first doctors that wanted to better learn about medicine I am reminded of Burke and Hare criminals who moved from digging up fresh corpses to make money providing for these doctors to making fresh corpses on their own through murder; the doctors likely turning a blind eye to these methods in order to carry out a common goodP7 Katherine Park in her study of dissection history and religion found that there was not such a fear of dissection for spiritual reasons so much as being killed in order to be dissected by the increasing demand from doctors to study anatomy Which I think reflects the fear in the present time for the high and sometimes desperate need for organ transplantsP9 I've actually seen a painting of a public dissection as they mention although I can't remember wheretoo many art museums at one time in too many countries Might have been in London Paris or FlorenceP11 in the late 1700s medical students in Scotland could pay tuition in corpses The description of corpse selling in early 1800s London and in the US not surprisingly Philadelphia in particular was pretty grotesue similar to how we sell buy and barter over meat Yick Human bodies were dismembered and sold in pieces or measured and sold by the inch Grave robbers were pretty well off back then I guess human life was regarded with much flippancy than it does now Exhibiting the dead is also not new and resulted in similar controversy which eventually got shut down to the general public p12P16 This book's stated purpose is exactly why I am reading it in the first place I saw the exhibit; now what should I feel what should I be thinking? It being not an ordinary visit to a museum I realize that I did feel some shock that people would put their less being skinned than naked bodies on display Medically chopped up or carved and posed It was actually difficult while I was going through to keep in mind that these are human corpses I think my brain wanted to keep that distance of unreality I think I felt the most awe for the extremely detailed and delineated blood vessels in parts of the body or in a rabbit looking like an extremely detailed sculpture of long thin red hairsP17 Plastination converts a dreaded thing the corpse into a plastic object like a Halloween outfit that we can safely look at feel a little horror at the realism then shrug it off as a thrill If we touch them it is like touching any other plastic decoration made to instill fear harmless Not like the flesh like feeling of a real corpse one that can stink and is inevitably decaying It should be no great surprise then if these plastinated pieces can be sold as art I suppose the next great thrill is decorating for Halloween with greater realism through the dissected pieces of real people Ugh especially if corpses in advanced decay are plastinated if that's even possibleP24 Unfortunately plastination does not make a human body invulnerable to decay but now no longer biodegradableP26 They aren't kidding on the tortured by flaying grotesueness of the Runner and Skin Man plastinates Are they really educating in this method??P39 The Body World exhibition is similar to the Musee Fragonard d'Alfort in France which is a couple hundred years older I'd like to visit along with Ambras Castle in AustriaP40 The Body Worlds exhibit is actually less educational than those in the past It is less connected to reality to our human mortalityP40 47 I was a bit shocked reading these pages; that the next stage of true medical education would be using identifiable brain dead bodies Makes me never want to be an organ donor It makes me sick to my stomach to hear that people could seriously think anyone would allow the public use of their living body but brain dead for educationP48 54 It is recommended that we confront the rampant denial in our society that we will live forever by letting the dead be dead and using models instead of people I also do not believe that a pregnant mother would allow plastination of her and her babyP61 I think this writer is correct in that we as a society skip out on a lot of protective preparation in order for viewers of death to retain their humanity Such as referring to the cadaver by their name or a name that does not poke fun at them as a thing but recognizing them as a human who has consented to have their body used in this way for their important goal to help others someday Or holding memorialburial services for the cadaver such as is also mentioned here Read from Stiff by Mary RoachThe morality of doctors is somewhat protected through ritual how are we so protected viewing bodies as a collection of life like tissue chopped up for all to see? I think this is why I can no longer watch the TV show Dexter; human lives even ones who have done wrong are not below our need to be humane towards all Manipulating an audience perception to see this serial killer as charming likable and even good despite the complete and intimate knowledge of his crimes is beyond what I can mentally endure It is not humane to like even a characterization of someone who derives pleasure from mutilating others for the sake of itP65 I think the origin and growing popularity of waxwork figures is interesting also would like to read the book about Madame Tussaud's life Madame Tussaud A Life in Wax and Madame Tussaud A Novel of the French Revolution I have visited Madame Tussaud's in London and the wax museum in Dublin Both having macabre sections wherein which I'm sure they've received most renown for I have not however visited a wax museum to educate on anatomy I can't believe La Specola in Florence could have been one I was there and didn't knowP80 Ewww Von Hagens DID sell pieces of plastinated humans horizontal slices ick And now there's a theme park? Plastinerium I can understand why Poland would deny him to establish such a place there WWII isn't that long agochokengtitiktitikchokeng81 Body Worlds is not the first and likely will not be the last to profit from our natural and sometimes unnatural interest in death and corpsesP82 The emphasis on consent may be or likely to be overstated or exaggeratedP83 84 Yep definitely experienced the contrast lighting informative text and uotes and reproduced art Apparently these are additions by American review boards to make it educational than sensational or voyeuristic Makes me rethink my impressions of my own trip Without all those extras I would probably be offended tooP85 Von Hagens signs the corpses??? They really are just things his own creation aren't they?P86 can one imagine a display of real human art corpses in an American art museum meeting with such a friendly reception? Wow Seeing it like that makes me feel sick If I heard about it in that context I would never pay to see such a barbaric thing Without the context I saw it in I think people would be absolutely shocked at our reactions This is definitely a mind provoking and important perspective for people to think about Displaying cadavers as art with or without consent feels wrong but it seems like it is the true intent of Von HagensP87 Hints of Nazi ideals is also less than wonderful Such as the idealized perpetually healthy maleOne compares his work to taxidermy how is it not?P88 Seems marketed as a form of perfect immortality compared to a consumer's heaven It is uite another thing to allow one's body to be appropriated as a work of art produced and signed by a living artistP89 Isn't it macabre to claim sculpted human bodies as somebody's original as if they were Michelangelo's David?P93 Interesting; I have never heard of cremains cremated remainsThis author notes wrongness in that the dead are not allowed to be in their natural and tradition prescribed state at rest That rings true; I have heard of alternate positions of repose for those believed to be demonic witches vampires and those who are honored both man and beast P104 I must agree with the author that these exhibits do display a complete disregard for the sanctity of human life by treating it as art buying selling displaying and profiting from itP105 Considering that all are naked I would at the very least up the rating of this supposed educational entertainment as R definitely not without parental consentP106 The locations of their operations should be telling Dalian China; Russian satellite countriesP107 Plastination; the process of sucking out your innards' innards and blowing you back up again with a less decaying substance It is said to feel like creep or the slow deformation of a material that occurs when it is held under a constant load such as the gradual stretching of a piano or violin string The author says this results in deformations about how the body is viewed scientifically and consciouslyP108 She mentions possibilities of the future that seem even scarier Ie making new life forms out of known DNAP114 She seems to have a perhaps rightly negative an ominous view of current and future biomedicine as artificial computed or synthetically created definitely a drastic move from the pervasive and acceptable awe found in earlier centuries discussions of the human body Her conclusion is that this kind of exhibition is just a reflection of the unnatural methods we have been using and to study the human bodyP115 If von Hagens seems offended by those wondering if he wants people to think of him a certain way I'd say he was lying His actions are yelling uite the opposite No evaluation of speech and body language necessary P119 Yeah They are not convincing me he's any kind of an artistP121 The comparison of von Hagen's idealistic evolution in East German society to the described plastination process was amusingP122 In our society one common alibi for evading our taboos is educationEven this artist author notes the insincere line that von Hagen and his wife Dr Whalley claim education through artP 125 The issues raised by plastination open a window onto the larger set of issues surrounding any alteration display or trade in body parts I like the fact that they created this book to promote ethical debate and endeavors to show as many facets of this issue composed of potentially many different issuesI just looked at the back and realized that I went to see this exhibit around the same time as our library got this book Interesting

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