Corpses For Show
#1


I am curious as to what y'all think about things like the Body Worlds exhibits -- those exhibits of bodies that have undergone a process known as "plastination," invented by Dr. Gunther van Hagen. The bodies have been dissected in a totally masterly way, injected and/or soaked in various solutions that preserve them indefinitely and allow them to be posed. The poses Dr. van Hagen chooses are everyday sorts of poses, such as a pair of corpses, dissected to show their muscles or veins or nervous system, sitting in chairs across from each other, playing chess. Or another such corpse might be depicted serving a tennis ball, or what have you.

As someone who's fascinated by the body and who'd wanted to be a doctor ever since at least the age of 4, I'm intrigued by such displays, thinking they not only are helpful to med students, anatomists, and artists, etc., but that they give viewers a sense of the incredible complexity of God's creation. They're awe-inspiring, in other words. And I really like things that are awe-inspiring LOL  Things that cause people to marvel and wonder can be really helpful in bringing people to God, in my opinion.

I know that the Catholic Church, at least in the past, had always taken a rather "liberal" view (um, as it were) toward allowing human dissection. People who died without family were offered the Requiem Mass, and their bodies were often turned over to anatomists. Meanwhile, in Protestant countries, anatomists had a big problem trying to acquire cadavers for study. William Harvey even resorted to dissecting his own father and sister. Whew!

It wasn't too big of a deal before the 19th century because it wasn't expected that your ordinary physician have a detailed knowledge of anatomy, but that expectation changed in that century, and the demand for bodies rose, leading to an epidemic of graverobbing along with some anatomy murders. After a couple of guys named Burke and Hare killed at least 16 people in order to sell their bodies to surgeons, the UK passed the Anatomy Act in 1832, which led to ameliorating the problem of graverobbing over there. In the US, though, graverobbing went on even into the early 20th century!

Anyway, what do you guys think about all of this sort of thing -- human dissection, laws that allow those without families to be used for study, the ability to donate one's body to science, the use of human cadavers for general public display a la Body Worlds exhibit, etc.?

Me, I tend to be OK with all of the above, assuming the person whose cadaver is being used is given proper religious services (the Requiem in the case of Catholics), his body is used with permission and/or used so that it's anonymous and unrecognizable, and the bodies are shown with respect.

That last bit is one reason why, though I am fascinated by the Body Worlds exhibit, I have a problem with some aspects of it. Having gone through Google images to find pictures of the exhibits, I know that there is one exhibit in which two corpse are depicted in flagrante delicto. I don't really have a problem with that being shown in itself (I mean, we're talking about beautifully dissected cadavers that display the mechanics of the marital act, not some lust-inducing turn-on), but I have a problem knowing that the two corpses involved belonged to people who never met in life, but there they are, together in a very intimate manner, dissected so that even the penis inside the vagina is visible. Maybe the corpses belonged to virgins, or to people married to others. Even if neither of those two apply, there are still two corpses who'd never met in life and so were not married to each other, "having sex." 

-- Or are they? ("having sex," I mean).

Treat that last bit about those two particular cadavers separately from the other questions, if you would. But I'd love to hear what you guys think about that as well...
 
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#2
This man is a sick degenerate, an obsessive who carries out semi-necrophile tendencies with an exhibitionistic grandeur. You would think, if it were about revelling in the mysteries of God's handiwork, he might be a believer. No, of course not; he is an outspoken atheist, and unscrupulous and immoral even as far as atheists go. He procures his bodies, some of which he poses in shocking ways like you described (including a pregnant mother and a flayed baby), from unethical sources like Chinese prisons.

He is, more than anything, a showman, though he aspires to credibility as a scientist and an artist. And the first principle in show business is having the right name. There is a universe of difference, after all, between an Erik Weisz and a Harry Houdini. The not-so-good doctor was born Günther Liebchen in Poland and grew up in East Germany. Liebchen is not particularly dramatic, so he took the name of his first wife, von Hagens, which has the benefit of having a nobiliary particle: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobiliary_particle Thus ennobled, the doctor left his first wife, who bore him three children, for another woman, who serves as Creative Director of Body Worlds.

Even those who are closest to him have questioned his taste, especially when it comes to the sexually gratuitous content Vox mentioned. From an article in the Telegraph, we learn his wife wasn't happy about a young woman's mutilated body, legs flung apart spread-eagle on a swing, so you could see inside her reproductive system---and her butthole to boot.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/3...parts.html
Quote:Then there's the whole question of taste - or the lack of it. One of the corpses downstairs is of a young woman sitting on a swing with her legs apart and a winsome expression on what's left of her face.

'Angelina doesn't like this one because she thinks she's too sexy,' says von Hagens. 'But I am very pleased with her.' He reaches between the woman's legs and starts touching her organs. 'Look, you can see everything very clearly: the uterus, the ovaries, the rectum...'

How do you think that young woman would have felt? Imagine if she is a Chinese Christian, or a practitioner of Falun Gong, who died in custody in China. How would she have felt knowing the indignity of her end, to have her pubic region prodded and dissected, layer by layer, by an ageing German necrophile to be put on exhibit for money. What would her father think? Her brother? Would they applaud the artistry and the science of the human body? "Well done, doc! I love how artistically we can see the artistry of her cervix." No, more likely, like all men who suffer the indignity of having their women degraded, they would demand blood.

There have been a couple of other comments on this forum on the subject of Body Worlds and this Dr. Unliebchen over the years. This sort of behaviour is a far cry from autopsy for the purposes of research and the creation of medical models for the purposes of instructing physicians in diagnosing and treating disease. It's gone on long enough, and now that the Dr. is dying of Parkinsons, crippled by debility and entering into a second childhood of dependency and weakness, I hope Body Worlds will end, but perhaps the profits of worldwide museum exhibitions will keep the exhibits and procurement of corpses going for years to come. Sadly, there is already at least one copycat travelling exhibition.
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#3
Churchmen have spoken out against this particular exhibit. In 2010, Bishop Frederick Henry of Calgary warned the faithful about the exhibit, and although his whole article on the diocesan website no longer exists, bits and pieces were picked up by Zenit. His article notes that other bishops have spoken out about the exhibit as well.
http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/calgary...ody-worlds

Quote: "When a Body World exhibit came to Cincinnati, Archbishop Pilarczyk stated: 'The public exhibition of plasticized bodies, unclaimed, unidentified, and displayed without reverence is unseemly and inappropriate.'
Quote:"In Kansas City, Bishop Finn and Archbishop Naumann complained: 'It represents a kind of "human taxidermy" that degrades the actual people, who, through their bodies, once lived, loved, prayed and died.'"
Quote:"The Church’s concern for human dignity extends to the body even after the soul is no longer present," he explained. "The bodies of the dead deserve respect and charity, preserving the God-given dignity of the human person."

Even the Anglican Church of England has criticized Unliebchen. The Rt. Rev. Nigel McCulloch, as Bishop of Manchester, wrote to Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry asking them to not host the exhibit. I cannot find the full letter, but snippets were picked up on this blog, which hosts some old articles.
https://geoconger.wordpress.com/2008/02/14/1134/

Quote:In his letter to the Museum and at a Feb 5 press conference at the Cathedral, Bishop McCullough said the exhibition was a modern version of the “Victorian freak shows.”

The bishop also objected to Dr. von Hagens solicitation of corpses for plastination and display after death, calling it a “modern twist on body-snatching.”

Bishop McCullough asked “Is this little shop of horrors that has entered Manchester really a family day out? I do hope the science museum will at least put a warning on its website for parents to protect the young, review the under-five ‘free entry’ marketing policy and, just like a horror at the cinema, raise the entry age to 18.”

“I also have concern for museum staff,” he asked. “Do you have a mechanism for giving staff an opt-out from working in the exhibition area? This might be on the grounds of religious faith, or because they have suffered bereavement, or because they believe working with such exhibits for the next four months may damage them psychologically,” the bishop asked.
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#4
Personaly, I'm a little hesitant about Von Hagens motivation.  He is a militant athiest who produced a plasticized "Christ" for Chanel 4 (UK)'s 2012 Easter Sunday special Crucifixion and who was planning in 2004 to have a televised special called FutureHuman where he'd "improve" a person live on TV.  Coupled with the myriad accusations that many of his subjects are either stolen from the morgues of former Soviet-bloc countries or are executed Chinese prisoners, I think that it's a tough case to make that this particular exhibition is something to visit.

With that said, the [i]technology[i] of plasticization is definitely amazing.  In an academic situation I am all for it.
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#5


Cyriacus, the point of my question wasn't Hagen himself or his particular exhibits, but about that sort of display of the human body. Obviously, if he's procuring bodies from prisons and such, and doesn't get consent from the person before death (ha, as opposed to after death?), that's a problem. But assume the bodies were donated.

DCMaccabees, I don't know a thing about his deep motives -- though I give him the benefit of the doubt -- and know, BTW, that he is planning on being plastinated himself -- by his wife -- and displayed, which leads me to think he doesn't see it as degrading in any way. And besides which, the plastinated ones aren't recognizable. No one could look at one and say, "Well, Mom's looking pretty awful!" or anything. And I consider museums to be "academic settings." I mean, they're there to educate (and no one is forced to see a given exhibit if he finds it offensive or is squeamish, etc.)

At the Medical Museum I volunteer at, we have, for ex., brains in jars, two adult skeletons, an infant's skeleton (that one's a heartbreaker -- so tiny, with bones so delicate they look like a bird's bones). I often pray for the souls attached to those bodies and body parts when I'm walking through the place. (speaking of squeamish, I had a kid today who couldn't handle my talking about transorbital lobotomies. He couldn't even enter the morgue part of the museum. It's interesting how some people are so much more sensitive to things like that than others...)

As to the good Bp. Henry, we have Saints' bones all over the place, often adorned and bejeweled, often just bare, relics like (these are made up, but you get the idea) "St. Anthony's left hand" or "St. Clare's Heart", all perfectly visible in some reliquaries. I think some of the positioning of the plastinated people can be undignified for sure, but don't think their display in itself is necessarily unsavory, unseemly, undignified, or un-Catholic. (In fact, back in the day, it was Catholic countries that allowed anatomists and surgeons to use cadavers for dissection. Those who died with no one to claim them were given a Requiem Mass, and then their bodies were turned over to scientists. It was in Protestant countries that cadavers were hard to come by -- making for a situation in which William Harvey, the man who described the circulatory system so well for the time, dissected his own father and his own sister (wowzers!). Graverobbing became a huge problem in the UK and the US, with some gravediggers moving on to anatomy murder -- folks like Burke and Hare, who killed at least 16 people to sell their bodies to medical schools or private anatomy colleges. After those two got caught, the UK passed the Anatomy Act in 1832 which made their laws more in line with those of Catholic countries, which didn't have those problems.
 
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#6
On the broader question of displaying human corpses for entertainment, or in a manner easily construed as entertainment, then I say it is immoral because (1) it is undignified, and (2) does not justify foregoing the normal burial to which everyone is entitled whenever possible.

The proponent of a Body World or similar exhibit may argue that it is educational in a similar way to medical cadavers; but even if that were true, the former is easily construed as entertainment, and presumably for profit. Not to mention that the audience will not be limited to students in a scientific frame of mind.

One might also compare such exhibits to the transparent coffins of incorrupt saints; but the latter is still burial, and dignified; and clearly it is neither entertainment nor done for profit.

As to exhibiting dead bodies in sexual poses, that is just sick.  Even if it is for art's sake or for educational purposes (as is sometimes claimed for pornography), it is not something that anyone should be looking at--especially a Catholic.
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#7
(08-06-2015, 07:50 PM)Vox Clamantis Wrote: DCMaccabees, I don't know a thing about his deep motives -- though I give him the benefit of the doubt -- and know, BTW, that he is planning on being plastinated himself -- by his wife -- and displayed, which leads me to think he doesn't see it as degrading in any way. And besides which, the plastinated ones aren't recognizable. No one could look at one and say, "Well, Mom's looking pretty awful!" or anything. And I consider museums to be "academic settings." I mean, they're there to educate (and no one is forced to see a given exhibit if he finds it offensive or is squeamish, etc.)

Doesn't it strike you as being very much like the motivation that the 19th century atheists had for cremation though?  That's what's sticking in my craw.  In his interviews he gives the impression that he views people as little more than meat-sacks. 

Again, though, it isn't the technology that I find distasteful.  It's the man.  The tech is fascinating.  I saw something very much like this a while ago in Vegas.  It may have even been this show, I don't remember.  I do recall that there was a "side-show" sort of feel to it.  That could have just been the Vegas spin, however.
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#8
(08-07-2015, 12:48 AM)dcmaccabees Wrote:
(08-06-2015, 07:50 PM)Vox Clamantis Wrote: DCMaccabees, I don't know a thing about his deep motives -- though I give him the benefit of the doubt -- and know, BTW, that he is planning on being plastinated himself -- by his wife -- and displayed, which leads me to think he doesn't see it as degrading in any way. And besides which, the plastinated ones aren't recognizable. No one could look at one and say, "Well, Mom's looking pretty awful!" or anything. And I consider museums to be "academic settings." I mean, they're there to educate (and no one is forced to see a given exhibit if he finds it offensive or is squeamish, etc.)

Doesn't it strike you as being very much like the motivation that the 19th century atheists had for cremation though?  That's what's sticking in my craw.  In his interviews he gives the impression that he views people as little more than meat-sacks. 

Again, though, it isn't the technology that I find distasteful.  It's the man.  The tech is fascinating.  I saw something very much like this a while ago in Vegas.  It may have even been this show, I don't remember.  I do recall that there was a "side-show" sort of feel to it.  That could have just been the Vegas spin, however.

From what I've read from Hagen, I think he definitely sees the body (not sure about "people") as little more than meat-sacks. But that's on him, ya know? Me, I try to separate artists from their art, craftsmen from their craft, writers from their work, etc., and won't cross off, say, a great bit of writing from someone who might be an atheist, Communist, or unrepentant, public sinner. I think to do otherwise makes are and Truth about the artist or the writer, etc., rather than what is actually is.  In addition, even the Forbidden Book lists prohibited certain works, not people.

I imagine that if I were to meet Hagen, I'd likely have tons of "issues" with him in terms of what he believes and all that, but that doesn't detract from how I view his work in itself -- some of which I am unsure about, some of which I appreciate very much as a used-to-be-wannabe-doctor and a medical museum type, and some of which I find very disturbing.

Acolyte Wrote:On the broader question of displaying human corpses for entertainment, or in a manner easily construed as entertainment, then I say it is immoral because (1) it is undignified, and (2) does not justify foregoing the normal burial to which everyone is entitled whenever possible.

The proponent of a Body World or similar exhibit may argue that it is educational in a similar way to medical cadavers; but even if that were true, the former is easily construed as entertainment, and presumably for profit. Not to mention that the audience will not be limited to students in a scientific frame of mind.

One might also compare such exhibits to the transparent coffins of incorrupt saints; but the latter is still burial, and dignified; and clearly it is neither entertainment nor done for profit.

As to exhibiting dead bodies in sexual poses, that is just sick.  Even if it is for art's sake or for educational purposes (as is sometimes claimed for pornography), it is not something that anyone should be looking at--especially a Catholic.

I think it can be argued that there's a dignity and even charity in sharing the wonders of God's creation with others. But I think that it should be left to the potentially plastinated person to decide. (though maybe there's something to be said for using the bodies of condemned criminals, which were often not afforded proper burials. In the UK, after 1752, I believe it was, the bodies of the condemned were sent to anatomists for scientific research. My understanding is that that wasn't done so much out of a love of science as it was done as an added punishment, however).

As to calling it "entertainment," I don't think that's how most people view the exhibit; most are, to my understanding, overwhelmed at the body's complexity and come away with a new respect for their bodies, both good things. People learn from it, in other words. If certain people see it as nothing but "entertainment," then that's on them. I mean, after a point, people have to get on with life and stop worrying about folks who see filth in everything -- a filth that is in their own minds rather than in the object being looked at. The Poor Clares would go around barefoot or in sandals, but to a man with a foot fetish, that'd be a huge turn-on, KWIM? After taking due precautions, people's sins are entirely their own. And I can't see displaying the body in that was as being "undue". I can't see how it'd incite lust or necrophilia or what have you in the normal, average person, which is the only type we can deal with when dealing with huge, general things intended for a large audience. Obviously, if there were going to be a lecture given to a group of foot fetishists, the woman giving the lecture should wear shoes that cover the feet. But other than that -- a body's gotta get on with things.

As to profit, it costs money to plastinate, to hire trucks to take exhibits around a country, etc. And the people who work to do that need to make a living.
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#9
C.S. Lewis wrote something to the effect that proof of the soul was in the normal human reaction to a dead body. Guess I'm not 'normal'! :LOL: I've held William Clark Quantrill's (remember Quantrill's Raid on Lawrence, KS in August, 1863?) in my hands and years ago, I worked for a shipping company that often shipped  bodies in caskets to their home towns for burial. Many of the guys flat refused to touch them. They were in shipping crates, but we all knew what they were. Never bothered me.

But, of course, I helped dig my stillborn brothers grave when I was ten years old.
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#10
That's [expletive] sick.

It would actually be more respectful to attach these bodies into a chariot and run around with them!
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