Body-parts exhibition denounced

06 February 2008

by Bill Bowder

AN EXHIBITION at the Museum of Science and Industry, in Manchester, which is due to open on 22 February, has been condemned by the Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch, in a letter of complaint to the museum’s acting director, Tony Hill.

The exhibition “Body Worlds 4” consists of preserved human and animal bodies. Dr Gunther von Hagens, a former researcher at the University of Heidelberg, uses a process of “Plastination”, and poses the bodies in lifelike ways, while showing their inner anatomical structures.

In a letter dated 1 February, Bishop McCulloch asked Mr Hill: “Is this little show of horrors that has entered Manchester really a family day out?”

He said it would undermine public confidence in the medical profession, reduce the number of bodies donated for bona fide research, and would mean a fall in the number of organ donations. Some of the bodies could have been “snatched” by encouragement to donors to leave their bodies to the exhibition rather than the NHS. The Bishop also had a “great concern for the spiritual welfare” of both the museum staff and visiting families.

But, on Wednesday, the museum said it had not seen any such letter from the Bishop before the press conference at which the Bishop’s objections were made public.

“Apparently we only received the letter by email. It was sent out to us on the Friday lunchtime, but unfortunately our director, Tony Hill, was away that day, and only saw it when he checked his emails on Sunday,” the museum’s press officer said.

“We would have welcomed the opportunity to sit down with the Bishop to discuss how we might be able to address his concerns. However, he has chosen to play out the debate in the media, which is unfortunate. We are still open to meet with him on this issue.”

Mr Hill said there was no evidence of a fall in full-body donations linked to earlier exhibitions, and “Body Works 4” states that the bodies have been donated.

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