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Specimens in BODY WORLDS Exhibitions Stem Primarily from German Body Donation Program

HEIDELBERG, Germany, Feb. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- The Institute for Plastination commends ABC's 20/20 for its investigation on the origin of bodies on display in public anatomical exhibitions. The program served to inform and educate the public about anatomical exhibitions in general, and the origins of bodies used in anatomical exhibitions in particular.

However, the Institute for Plastination wishes to clarify two vague statements made by anatomist, Dr. Gunther von Hagens to 20/20, that may have confused Associated Press, other media, and the public about the origin of the bodies in BODY WORLDS exhibitions.

In the interview conducted entirely in English (Dr. von Hagens' second language), he said that he had "stopped using bodies from China," and that "he had cremated some bodies that showed head injuries." His incomplete statements -- presented without context or chronology -- led some to conclude that he had once used Chinese bodies in the BODY WORLDS exhibitions, and had since ceased to do so.

In his interview, Dr. von Hagens neglected to mention that from 2003 to 2004, he was frequently asked by Chinese universities to complete plastination of anatomical specimens belonging to their medical schools. The specimens were delivered by the universities to Dr. von Hagens for plastination, and returned after the plastination process. In his interview, Dr. von Hagens failed to explain that he was referring to his secondary plastination work for medical schools, and not his primary work of donor plastination for BODY WORLDS exhibitions.

In fact -- with the exception of fetuses from historical anatomical collections pre-dating 1930, and some small organs from hospital anatomy and pathology programs -- all of the specimens in BODY WORLDS (more than 180 out of 200 specimens per exhibit), originate from the Institute for Plastination's Body Donation Program, established in Heidelberg in 1982 and managed by the Institute for Plastination since 1993.

As of January 2008, the Institute for Plastination's Body Donation roster includes 8244 living donors from around the world (7076 Germans and 659 Americans) and 546 deceased donors (538 Germans and 8 Americans).

The Institute for Plastination apologizes for the confusion that arose from the vague statements made by Dr. von Hagens in his favored, but not first, language.

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