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BODIES - NOT REVEALED?

01-01-2010

The Bodies Revealed exhibition at Birmingham's Custard Factory may expose the inner workings of human physiology. But Dr David Nicholl wonders if it hides darker secrets.

As someone who is passionate about anatomy, I was genuinely interested in the “Bodies-Revealed” exhibition at the Custard Factory. It struck me as an excellent way to pass the post-Christmas period with my kids, and do something useful educationally with my kids.

However, just a brief look at the website concerned me, as there was no detailed information on where the bodies had actually come from.

Why does this matter? For years, there have been concerns regarding the supply of organs from China - both living - for the international transplant trade- and dead- for exhibitions such as Bodies-Revealed. In the majority of cases, the organs from China will have come from executed prisoners on death row.

In an interview last month in Birmingham, the medical director of Premier Exhibitions, the group behind Bodies Revealed, Dr Roy Glover, stated that the organs were from China - although this does not appear anywhere on the website - and a disclaimer states: "Premier’s suppliers certify that the specimens in the BODIES REVEALED exhibitions have been donated by the deceased or their authorized family member for education and that the specimens died of natural causes.

"Premier cannot, however, independently guarantee the origins of the specimens.”

Last year, the Attorney General in New York state successfully sued Premier Exhibitions, as Premier were unable to disprove that the bodies on display came from Chinese prisoners. Indeed the legal settlement enabled any visitors were able to get a refund as a result of the case.

Unless and until, Premier exhibitions are able to guarantee that the bodies being used are from legitimate sources, and not from death row prisoners from a country with a record of profound human rights abuses, I won’t be hurrying along for a day out.

Hopefully Premier will be able to answer a simple question- can they guarantee that they do not use bodies from death row in China?

If they are unable to answer this question, then the sponsors of the exhibition, including BRMB and the Sunday Mercury have some interesting questions to ask. Birmingham deserves as much clarity as New York that the bodies being used have been collected in an ethical manner and not under duress.

Editor's Note: We contacted Premier Exhibitions in the United States earlier this week, and await their reply. The event organisers are invited to contact editor@thestirrer.com

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