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

Sunday, February 17, 2008 General News J E 4
HEIDELBERG, Germany, Feb. 16 The Institute forPlastination commends ABC's 20/20 for its investigation on the origin ofbodies on display in public anatomical exhibitions. The program served toinform and educate the public about anatomical exhibitions in general, and theorigins of bodies used in anatomical exhibitions in particular.

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

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

In his interview, Dr. von Hagens neglected to mention that from 2003 to2004, he was frequently asked by Chinese universities to complete plastinationof anatomical specimens belonging to their medical schools. The specimens weredelivered by the universities to Dr. von Hagens for plastination, and returnedafter the plastination process. In his interview, Dr. von Hagens failed toexplain that he was referring to his secondary plastination work for medicalschools, and not his primary work of donor plastination for BODY WORLDSexhibitions.

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

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

The Institute for Plastination apologizes for the confusion that arosefrom the vague statements made by Dr. von Hagens in his favored, but notfirst, language.



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