Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bodyworlds 3: Portland

This weekend I went to see the Body Worlds 3 Exhibition in Portland, OR. I have wanted to see this for several years, since first reading about it. A German doctor invented a process called plastination where plastic is injected into bodies to preserve them. The human bodies are donated. It's an alternative to organ donation, as the entire body can be used for exhibits or teaching materials.

Some of the human bodies have been posed in various positions. Some are just arteries and blood vessels - there is plastic injected throughout the bloodstream and everything else is dissolved. This results in a very intricate demonstration of blood flow throughout our various organs. There is also a human nervous system with everything else removed - very interesting to see. One of the coolest and creepiest exhibits was a man holding his own skin - which had been removed entirely.

You will certainly see the human body differently. There are slices of humans - literally. You can compare a healthy brain slice with a brain with tumor slice, a healthy lung with a smoker's lung (this should REALLY make you want to give up smoking!), you can see what emphysema looks like, and other diseases in the body. Overall that was quite interesting.

Overall this was well worth my time and a trip to Portland. I found the embryos particularly interesting. It's just shocking to see how perfectly formed fingers exist just a few weeks into pregnancy. Seeing actual embryos in various stages of development was fascinating.

Personally I didn't like the extreme poses of some of the people, and found the other aspects of the exhibit a lot more interesting. There was a rather grotesque film at the end showing dissection which I sure could have lived without also.


Mom de Guerre said...

Before you go, please consider the controversy surrounding the orgins of the bodies and Gunther von Hagen's background. (,1518,344539,00.html)
Several of the bodies had to be returned due to gunshot wounds to the head. (,2763,1129261,00.html)
There are 11 body processing plants in Dalain China, right next to the prisons. We should question whether the system with such a horrific human rights record, and also the same one that is poisoning our toys with lead paint can be trusted with this new 2 billion dollar entertainment opportunity. (
See if you're interested in more information
Education or Freak Show?
"It's all about education? No. It's not all about that," said Dr. Howard Markel, director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan. "It's about the money. This is an extraordinarily successful entertainment show."
Markel and others are concerned that shows like this do not use bodies from consenting donors and do not make public the paper trail showing exactly where the cadavers came from.
"I'm all in favor of people looking at and understanding the human body," he said, but added that he thinks there are other ways, besides public spectacle, to educate people about their inner workings. "Frankly, I don't want to be somebody's Saturday entertainment."

Esmae said...

I agree that it's not 100% for education and that in some senses it could be argued it's art or "entertainment" but I do think there is also a large educational component. While it is controversial, I believe every person has the right to do what they want with their body, in life and in death, and those who choose to donate have every right to do so. I have no reason to believe the bodies I saw were not voluntarily donated. While it would be a problem if bodies were NOT, given the huge number of donors and the expense of the process of plasticizing the bodies, I don't think this creates a black market for human bodies.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm . . . I went to and read a few articles. Apparently in China and in Russia, unclaimed bodies can LEGALLY be used for research or education, so I'm not really sure what the fuss is all about? Those running the website say that the deceased didn't consent to being used for research or education, which is true. They didn't consent to ANY purpose for their dead body. They didn't consent to being buried. They didn't consent to being creamated. Worry about your own body, make your wishes known. Otherwise . . .

mom de guerre said...

I guess you didn't see the part about families not being able to FIND their loved ones who have been arrested because of their spiritual beliefs. China executes more people per year than all other countries combined. That includes non-violent offenses. As I read in the local newspaper here from an AP feed, it also includes Christians - in case that makes any difference - with home churches who are arrested and tortured to death. I didn't make that up - it came through AP. Read Harry Wu's accounts of torture survivors and how terrified they and their families are - and those are the ones who have escaped to THIS country. Did it occur to you that their families don't claim them because they're AFRAID? Eleven body processing plants next to prisons and you're splitting hairs about whether they volunteered? You're asking the profiteers to turn their back on 2 billion profit to self regulate. There is just too much opportunity for, shall we say, abusing the system?

If you still have no conscience about the possibility of executed prisoners, maybe the fact that these bodies are not inspected by the health department and are not required to have a CDC stamp upon importation -in light of tainted dogfood, toothpaste, and toys - and were LEAKING (what?) in San Francisco might get your attention. Medical cadavers must complete a whole list of requirements like giving death certificates and having a CDC stamp. But not these bodies for commercial display because they are listed as an 'art collection' on their importation documents. Now, isn't that clever?

Anonymous said...

Well if the AP said it, it must be true!! LOL!!

I don't condone using prisoners, but if you read the website it is not the BodyWorlds exhibit they are having a tizzy about. It is the other (somewhat similar) exhibit. That exhibit LEASES the bodies from a Chinese company, and the origin of the bodies is unknown.

To say that China kills a lot of people in prison, and the BodyWorlds lab is in a town with a prison, therefore the BodyWorld exhibit must be unfairly executed Chinese, is IRRATIONAL.

Unclaimed bodies in China are legally used for medical research and education. If you want China to change their law, than take that up with them.

I'm not splitting hairs on whether they volunteered. When someone is dead, they are GONE. If they didn't make their wishes known or have a family member claim them to take care of the body, SOMETHING must be done with it. I don't think organ donation, medical research, or BodyWorlds is an inappropriate use of it.

You are taking YOUR belief (I assume) that bodies have to be buried or creamated as the only "appropriate" disposition of a body. I don't beleive that is the only appropriate use of a body.

The person is dead, and we don't know what they wanted for their body. You are taking YOUR desires for YOUR body and pretending it is what everyone in the universe wants. It is not.

A Chinese manufacturer shipped some bad pet food to the US, so therefore the BodyWorlds exhibit is bad? Your arguements are not persuasive due to your random correlations.

I can't imagine that a CDC stamp matters, at BodyWorlds, I believe you just LOOK at the bodies, you do not eat them.

mom de guerre said...

I never said I cared one whit about what you or anyone else does with their dead body. That's your business. Don't put words in my mouth. You have a right to your opinion, but let's get it straight what we're discussing. I may not care what happens to you after you're dead, but I would care if you were executed by a soulless system, quite possibly in order to fuel a goulish new entertainment industry. I would care if you never gave any consent for being hauled around in a freak show so kids could write in the visitor book "thanks for letting me see the pee pee". (They're really appreciative of the education and its all done very seriously you see)

From what I have seen the Chinese system is NOT especially well known for treating its citizens with any amount of regard much less respect. I don't think that American ticket sales should fuel an industry that might questionably be harvesting bodies. The production companies should be put to a higher standard of proof. That's my point. Give us a proven (by US standards) paper trail. Its required for medical cadavers, why not for these? WHY not for these? There IS a proven paper trail to the harvest of organs (you know, where they keep the prisoner alive until someone with the right blood type make an order?) in hospitals near Dalain. (See Kilgore Report) They are making quite a bit of money from that cozy little industry. If they are harvesting organs....gee, do you think they might be using the left over bodies? Oh, gosh, golly no way John Boy.

As for the CDC stamp, that's centers for DISEASE control not the Food and Drug administration. People are touching these bodies, even if they're not supposed to. And the handlers must set up the exhibits but have no funerary licenses for the handling of dead bodies. No permits are needed, unless of course you're moving some lights or walls around THEN you have to apply for a building permit.

There is a table in some of these exhibits where you can handle the organs (are they the rejects that couldn't be transplated?). I don't think you have to eat something to get eboli or bird flu. Also, in NYC some 'models' got too close to the lights and were giving off yummy fumes that smelled like rotted bacon cooking. Are fumes from heated acetone (used in the plastination process) dangerous to the public? Gosh golly I don't think so John boy. Don't worry, the world is good and people who want to get rich will always do the right thing before they accept one dollar from you. They don't need any rules.

Speaking of good people, read the links on that site about Gunther, the father of plastination. Yeah, its his perception of the world we should impose on our school kids, absolutely. Son of a decorated Nazi SS and required to ship bodies back because of gunshot wounds to the head. He's a really nice guy too. He'd NEVER do anything that wasn't ethical. Gosh golly, no way John Boy.

Check out these sites as well

Anonymous said...

I read one of the anti-Gunther sites, it said that he found that seven of his Chinese cadavers had gunshots in their head, so he had them creamated. I don't have a problem with that. In China unclaimed bodies are used for science and education. He found that seven bodies were executed prisoners, and did the right thing. He didn't use them.

I'm going to go see the Bodyworlds exhibit. I was not sure if I wanted to see it, that is why I was researching what others thought. Your ranting has definitely piqued my curiousity. Thanks for making a "maybe" exhibit a "MUST SEE".

mom de guerre said...

I'm not surprised. Morbid curiosity filled the coliseums, afterall. Its your conscience.

Anonymous said...

It wasn't morbid curiousity until you chimed in. My conscience is clear.

It is kind of amusing that your ranting is free advertising for the show, I'm sure Gunther appreciates it!