Thursday, May 29, 2008

Warning: Tortured Bodies May Lie Ahead

As part of a settlement between the NY Attorney General's Office and the promoters of “Bodies: The Exhibition,” the following warning must now be presented at the exhibitions:

Warning: The body parts you are about to see may have come from Chinese prisoners who were tortured and executed.

The NY Times Cityroom blog writes that the exhibition has been the object of persistent criticism from medical ethicists and human rights advocates, who have questioned whether the remains were legally obtained.

You can access the full story here.


SabrinaW said...

Something bothers me about the refund of tickets for people who saw the exhibit before the settlement. I think it's the commodification/consumerism aspect, that the visitors did not get their money's worth somehow.

Certainly, the exhibit ought to be fined or otherwise punished for obtaining the bodies through immoral means, but the refund feels off somehow.

Anonymous said...

I was impressed by the exhibit, specifically by how the people in the hall (I saw it in NYC) really seemed to approach the donors with respect and curiosity. The tone was right on, which surprised me. I don't expect to be moved this way in public.

However, it goes without saying that bodies need to be obtained by donation, not from prisons or by some unscrupulous capitalism.

Which makes me wonder what the Attorney General would say about medical school anatomy. I just finished my first year at a school in a state that neighbors NY, where we get 100% of our bodies by donation within our state itself. Still, did these people volunteer their bodies knowing exactly what we'd do to them? We ripped them apart. At the beginning of the year we were extremely careful, but by the end--I'll never forget the images of my classmates bisecting people's heads with rusty handsaws. It's not dignified for anyone. Is that informed consent? Sure, I learned a lot of anatomy this year, but was that from my own studying, or from the dissections themselves?

Even more disturbingly, and I don't know if this is rumor or the truth, but our anatomy instructors told us that a significant number of cadavers at medical schools in NYC were unclaimed bodies at city prisons. Could that be true?