Bodies: the Exhibition in Cincinnati. Unethical. Bodies shown without consent of the dead


ABC’s 20/20 will be running an investigative report into Bodies the Exhibition on Friday February 15, 2008 at 10:00PM.  Reporter Brian Ross visited China and has come up with some “amazing” stuff.

Original Article 1/28/2008

Coming to a museum near you! Katrina Victims Bodies on Display! Twenty African African-American, unclaimed and unknown victims of this hurricane tragedy are artistically dissected and posed in lifelike educational exhibits.  See a body’s muscles as they ripple from the exertion of running away from a breaking levee.  See a cross-section of a drowning victim’s lung to see how much water it can hold before death. Examine the impact of alcohol on a liver of a drunk homeless person. It’s a moving and educational experience!

This exhibit does not exist, thankfully, not because there aren’t unclaimed victims of Katrina.  There are still about 100 unclaimed Katrina victims that are still refrigerated, awaiting burial.  It does not exist because of the staggering outcry an exhibition like this would bring.  The public would collectively say that showing the dead in this manner is undignified and against the customs of all cultures.

Since the dawn of time, humankind has always treated the dead with respect.  This respect is so important that the breaking of this is taboo, a shocking and horrific deed.  The imagery of an American soldier being dragged through the streets or a body of a young black man hung from a tree is unbearable and has mobilized people into action to change the course of history.

Add race or religion to this mix and you’d have a total inferno.  Just the thought of displaying twenty dead African African-Americans without their consent is unfathomable.  How about twenty dissected and unclaimed Jews? How would you feel?  How about twenty Chinese?

Wait. Twenty Chinese?  Twenty Chinese on display without their consent.

Where’s the outrage?

Bodies: the Exhibition, opening February 1, 2008 at Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, is just such an exhibition.

Preserved and dissected Chinese bodies are being put on display without their consent. Premier Exhibitions, Inc. chief medical advisor, Dr. Roy Glover, states in a letter to the Columbus Dispatch September 24, 2007:

“We have legal documentation and representation that confirms that only
the bodies of people who are deceased from natural causes have been
included in the exhibition and have been acquired by legal means with
the highest of ethical standards.”

It is standard practice not only throughout Asia but also here in the
United States for unclaimed and unidentified bodies to be offered to
medical schools for education, the core of our exhibition.”

(bold text- my emphasis)

If you died today, would you volunteer to be stripped of your skin, pumped up with liquid plastic, cut up, and posed in a museum display?  Maybe, yes, maybe no. But at least that would be YOUR choice.  By using “unclaimed and unidentified bodies” Premier Exhibitions, Inc. clearly does not get consent from the dead.  These bodies are condemned to a lifetime of traveling to shopping malls in the name of “education” as part of this freakish sideshow. 

Premier Exhibitions, Inc. states that it’s common for “unclaimed and unidentified bodies to be offered to
medical schools for education”.  But before Premier Exhibitions, Inc. brought this show to “educate” the masses in Cincinnati, this show had traveled to these noted centers of higher learning:

Las Vegas: Tropicana Resort & Casino
New York, South Street Seaport (Dining & Entertainment Center)
San Diego, University Towne Center (Mall)
Columbus, OH, Easton Market (Mall- Exhibit in was in a closed CompUSA)
Framingham, MA (Mall- Exhibit in was in a closed CompUSA)
Durham, NC, Streets at Southpoint (Mall)

Shopping malls and a casino.  If you donated your body to science, would you expect it to be seen at a casino? 

Let’s be clear that this is a for profit show. Premier Exhibitions, Inc.
is a publicly traded company with shareholders to answer to. The Cincinnati Museum Center believes this
exhibit combined with the previous Pirates exhibit will create the
“busiest 12 months in Museum Center history.”  Traveling exhibitions
like this are big business in the same tradition as carnivals and freakshows of the 19th century.  Bodies, the Exhibition is now one of a
number of competing traveling exhibitions in the country.

Museums with higher ethical standards will not allow exhibits such as this. The City of San Francisco has already banned this type of exhibition and the State of Washington has a law in the works that would do the same.

Showcasing the deceased in this manner without their permission is wrong.  Charging money and profiting from unclaimed bodies is even worse.  Is it not our duty as humanity to care for those who are less fortunate?  I think one of the saddest things is to leave this world alone and to have no one to mourn or even to remember you.  Instead of giving dignity, respect, or even pity, we’ve turned these unfortunate souls into museum displays to roam our country for profit as property for their owners.

Consent is critical.  If consent doesn’t matter then we’d be harvesting organs from all the dead to save the living.

It is educational, but the Nazi’s experimented on Jews in the name of education.  That’s not right .

Ethics are important not some thing to be skirted.

Let’s end this now and take a stand here in Cincinnati and let the world know that it is not right and not ethical to show unclaimed bodies without their informed consent.  That it is wrong to show the dead for profit.  We are better than this, as Cincinnatians, as Americans, as humanity.

Boycott Bodies the Exhibition Cincinnati website

Resources and more information:

News and Opinion
SeattlePI.com: If only these bodies could talk
NYTimes: China Turns Out Mummified Bodies for Displays
The Epoch Times: ‘BODIES . . . The Exhibit’ is Gruesome Show of Unidentified Dead
NYTimes: Cadaver Exhibition Raises Questions Beyond Taste
SeattlePI.com: Education or freak show? ‘Bodies … The Exhibition’ cashes in on our own curiosity
Pittsburgh Post Gazette: China ‘Bodies’ exhibit raises hackles here
RedOrbit: Museum Plans to Open Corpse Show in Fla.
SeattlePI.com: $10,000 reward posted to find who stole kidney from display
SeattlePI.com: First Person: Exploiting the poor beyond death

Cincinnati specific articles
From WCPO.com: Bodies …The Exhibition Draws Criticism (VIDEO)
From WCPO.com: Bodies …The Exhibition Draws Criticism (Story)
Cincinnati Enquirer: Archbishop says no to ‘Bodies’ exhibit
Cincinnati Enquirer: ‘Bodies’ exhibits troubling ethical issues
Cincinnati Enquirer: Exhibit to show real bodies
DocGrubb’s opinion piece
Cincinnati Enquirer: Bizarre ‘Bodies’ left me queasy

Protest and Information Sites
Stop Body Worlds and other exhibits of plasticized bodies
The Anti-BODIES Virtual Protest Site
No Bodies 4 Profit
seattlechatclub.org: The Mystery of the Crying Cadavers

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  • Reply shannon grubb January 29, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    Very nice site. And point well-made regarding race. Where is the outrage?
    Best of luck,
    shannon grubb, mason

  • Reply Carla Pitsinger February 13, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    Our country should not use/show cadavers in any way shape or form to the public. We need Ohio’s Attorney Generals office to have more back bone and respect all religious values of the deceased in this regard to honor the spirits of the dead.
    Sharon Worth

  • Reply Outraged citizen February 17, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    “These bodies are condemned to a lifetime of traveling to shopping malls in the name of “education” as part of this freakish sideshow.”
    Really. Who’s lifetime? I thought they were already dead.
    This kind of sensationalizm serves only to “protect” people from seeing the marvelous creations and wonderment of our human bodies.
    Spend your energies protecting the living from hunger, opression and ignorance.

  • Reply MT February 17, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    Thank you for your comment. However, this issue has a tremendous impact on the LIVING.
    Directly, if these are political prisoners that have been executed and sold on the black market, a person that was living is now dead to feed the demand for these exhibits. If someone’s paying $300 for a dead body, you can be sure that there are enough unscrupulous card that would take advantage of having an unlimited source of prisoners. Prisoners in China are different. Many are prisoners for doing the exact thing that I’m doing now. Speaking out. By using bodies purchased of the black market, you can not know that these bodies aren’t political prisoners.
    But you’re right. This is part of a much larger issue. The fact that we, the American public and the Chinese themselves do not respect the rights and human dignity of the individual. We buy goods from China because they’re the lowest cost. How are they so cheap? People in factories routinely work 28 out of 30 days in a month for very little pay. This is backbreaking work, but we don’t care because it means that we get cheap toasters and DVD players.
    So, to fight “hunger, oppression, and ignorance” I would have to deny you more than this exhibit. I’d have to deny you the right to cheap goods built on the sweat of the Chinese.
    This exhibit is just the tip of the problem. Bodies are just a commodity to be bought and sold just like the other goods we’re getting from China.

  • Reply MT February 17, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    Oh, and please tell me how you’re protecting the living from hunger, opression (sic) and ignorance. If it’s worthy, I may join you.

  • Reply pema March 2, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    There are no african or african american bodies in this exhibit, they are all asian, chinese and that is the reason people are in an uproar. It’s not determined if they donated their bodies or if these are political prisoner who were not ever given an option. why is it necessary to make things so racist and controversial in the Western mode of life. You westerner’s need to fucking take care of your own horrific history and address things , rather than spew your crap across the planet.

  • Reply Anonymous January 27, 2011 at 8:50 am

    Every living person involved in this freak show should be ashamed!!

  • Reply Anonymous April 26, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    The Bodies exhibit in Cincinnati was very educational. The bodies were unclaimed and it was alright with the next of kin to do the plastination of them. The person who figured out how to do the plastination of them is a German guy. It was very clever of him. Most of the bodies were cut up in order to display some health problem or just that particular part of the person’s body. Kidney stones are very interesting to see. You can avoid having them by eating watermelon. No doubt you have heard of breast cancer. It was displayed also. The polyps from colon cancer were there also. Some of those people must have died some horrible deaths. It is really remarkable that they are being displayed for all of us to see.

  • Reply MT April 26, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    It has been shown by investigative journalists that there was no permission given by next of kin. Most likely these bodies were from the black market.

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