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Anatomist Dr. Gunther von Hagens, Pioneer of Anatomical Exhibitions Not Affiliated With Copycat Display in Paris

HEIDELBERG, Germany, Feb. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Anatomist Dr. Gunther von Hagens - creator of the world renowned BODY WORLDS anatomical exhibitions that bear his name - issued a clarification to French media and public in response to recent media reports that confused a cadaver display announced in Paris, with his own BODY WORLDS exhibitions.

In a statement, Dr. von Hagens said, "I have been an anatomist for more than thirty five years, and during my career I have taken great pains to present anatomical exhibitions that are bound by inviolable European standards of human rights and ethics. The exhibitions that bear my name only use donor bodies, primarily German, from the Heidelberg Institute for Plastination's Donor Program. It is therefore important for the media and people of Paris and France to know that I am not affiliated or connected in with any anatomical exhibitions other than Gunther von Hagens' BODY WORLDS. I am most certainly not associated in any way to the cadaver display in Paris using Chinese bodies of unknown origin."

For more than five years, a growing number of businessmen attempting to imitate the German anatomist's publicly and critically acclaimed exhibitions, have roamed the globe with cadaver displays of unclaimed and found bodies from China. Several of the copycat displays have drawn criticism from ethicists, human rights organizations, and religious groups due to the lack of legal consent of those on display. According to news reports, health authorities have reported concerns over leaking specimens and associated toxic health hazards in several copycat displays. Charges of anatomically incorrect dissections from anatomists and medical associations have also been reported.

For the most part, the copycats have been allowed to present their displays unfettered by civic government and human rights organizations, despite the ban on the export of human remains from China, and despite the fact that the majority of bodies on display in these shows are of young, Chinese males, who apparently all died of natural causes. Laogai Research Foundation, an agency in Washington DC that monitors and documents human rights violations in China, has declared their concerns over the use of unclaimed and found Chinese bodies in copycat displays in the New York Times, the San Diego Union Tribune and other media. The subject was most recently explored in an investigation, by ABC's 20/20, . According to Laogai, officials from Dalian Medical University, the source of many of the bodies in copycat displays, have been implicated in the use of executed prisoners for commercial purposes, including organ transplants.

Dr. von Hagens said, "As a former political prisoner in East Germany, I believe firmly in the principles of democracy, freedom, and free will. Thus from the beginning of my career, when I established the only body donation program for Plastination in the world, I felt morally obligated to the doctrine of legal consent for those on public display. I envisioned from the beginning for BODY WORLDS to be a scientific collaboration between anatomist, donor, and visitor. It is imperative that the media and public of Paris and France know that I am not associated with the cadaver display in Paris, and that any reports suggesting otherwise are false."

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