Sunday, 14 October 2012

"The supportive"Gunther von Hagen’s Body Worlds

The objectives of the IfP can be summarized as follows:

1.      Improving overall anatomical instruction

 The IfP produces high-quality educational specimens for anatomical instruction at universities and other teaching institutions.

2.      Improving awareness of medical issues, particularly among the general public

The IfP produces plastinates aimed at educating non-medical professionals and restores public access to the anatomy of the human body.

3.      Popularizing and developing plastination techniques

The IfP disseminates plastination expertise around the world, allowing other teaching institutions to profit from this unique process. The IfP also pursues scientific objectives and strives continually to develop and refine the techniques of Plastination and the resulting anatomical specimens. It is aided in these endeavors by visiting scientists and scholarship holders from national and international universities.

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A Visual Analysis of Gunther von Hagens' Plastinates
by Professor Michael Coventry
Summer 2005

                Plastination is a technique developed and patented by German anatomist Gunther von Hagens in the 1990s in which the liquids of the body are forcibly replaced with a polymer, creating an entirely stable cadaver that is posed creatively to highlight aspects of human anatomy.The plastinated figures are arranged artistically, but von Hagens focuses on their scientific merit. His BodyWorlds exhibit has been shown in Europe in many venues, but has been carefully couched in scientific terms here in the United States.  It can be break down into few categories such as mortality, remediation, mediation and more. Please check the attached photos to have a clearer point of view.      


   However, few issues are being bought up such as the source of bodies is an issue bound up with politics, religion, and the historical association of anatomy with body-snatching  Also, some of the viewer questioned about whether or not the donors have consented, von Hagens faces the larger ethical issue of whether he is treating the human body with dignity and respect and Body Worlds is criticized for profiting from the body.           


                In short, they are displayed in conventional spaces and follow traditional principles of museum theory, yet their dynamism goes far beyond a strictly clinical nature and characterizes them as aesthetic sculptures rather than cadavers. Plastinates provoke an emotional connection that is allowed because their poses and their preservation allow visitors to suspend the clinical detachment that is required of those in the medical professions.

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Germany's terminally-ill 'Dr. Death' to put own body on show

09 January 2011

           The German anatomist dubbed "Doctor Death", who has turned stomachs worldwide preserving and displaying dead bodies, said Wednesday he is terminally ill and plans to exhibit his own corpse.

         Gunther von Hagens, 65, told the Bild mass circulation daily he is suffering from incurable Parkinson's disease and intends to have his dead body put on display to "welcome" visitors to his exhibition.
          Hagens is no stranger to controversy. His latest wheeze was to offer preserved body parts for sale in a so called "supermarket of death." In a process invented by Hagens, the body parts are skinned and preserved with a synthetic resin, laying bare the naked muscles, nerves and tendons underneath.

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Gunther von Hagens presents Crucifix for Easter

by Adam Shervin
06 April 2012

           It’s a gory portrayal of the crucifixion, created from casts of human bone and blood vessels, which looks certain to offend Easter church-goers. But Dr Gunther von Hagens, the controversial anatomist, insists that his latest work is not blasphemous but a true expression of Christian values.

         The German scientist, notorious for his Body Worlds exhibition of preserved human corpses, has brought his plastination technique to bear on the iconic image of Christ on the cross.

         Describing his Crucifix as “a piece of religious anatomy art,” von Hagens argued that his work “draws on Christian traditions, with the skeleton symbolising frailty, finitude and human transience, while the vascular system, in which the blood is transported around the body, stands for the miracle of life.”

        Von Hagens said: “There have been many controversial representations of Jesus which I think lack fundamental respect for the Christian religion. Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ has strong deviations from the New Testament account and Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ contains extremely sadistic scenes.The sculpture showed “Jesus as if he had been frozen in time, between death and decay, ever since the moment he was nailed to the cross.” 

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Friday, 12 October 2012

The Controversy of Plastination

"Body Worlds" Fascinating vs. Distasteful

Body world has gain a lot of controversial throughout this issues."Body Worlds" has generated controversy for a variety of reasons since its 1996 opening in Tokyo. For starters, there is the general discomfort with human remains being displayed publicly. Many have questioned whether this kind of exhibit is sensational or in keeping with the dignity of the human person. Others are concerned about whether those who donated their bodies gave proper consent.

1.) Education or "Entertainment"

During this VO N HA G E N S is shown darting around the exhibition in the dark, illuminating the flayed and dissected faces of some of the more dramatic cadavers with a torch, while something like a horror-movie sound track thumped in the background. Peoples think that it’s evoked more the atmosphere of that kind of horror-fantasy land than that of an educational exhibition.

2.) Compromise people moral values

Chavez argues that Body Worlds “denigrates not only the human body, but life itself,” and that the often humorous, provocative, and unceremonious stances in which the models are placed strip the bodies of their dignity posthumously. Granted, some of the pieces, such as a reclining pregnant woman with stomach open to reveal an eight-month-old fetus, seriously push the bounds of taste .Gunther von Hagens maintains that his goal is not to shock or offend. Rather, von Hagens seeks to portray the models in the most informative and visually appealing fashion, thereby creating a form of, as he calls it, “edutainment” (“Naked”).

3.)Objectification- Pornography and the Dead
 A central problem with pornography is the way that the bodies of those who participate, even when they are consenting, are treated simply as objects, and viewed as such. There is a separation of the body from the person. Once you remove the notion of personhood from the bodies of people, you can then do what you like with them – and there lies much of the tragedy of human history. A dead person is still a person, bearing the signature of human life. So, I believe that the display of the dead currently going on in Brick Lane invites just such an objectification of persons, even though they are dead.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Von Hagens faces investigation over use of bodies without consent

 November 18, 2003           

              The most serious charge against him, and the one that has proved most persistent, is that the bodies in his exhibitions were taken, not given. It has been alleged that his corpses include executed prisoners from China and inmates of psychiatric institutions in Kyrgyzstan obtained without their relatives' consent. He insists that all were given freely but the accusations keep recurring.

               Mr Taschtanbekow claims that in most cases obligatory autopsies of the bodies were not carried out and relatives were not informed that the bodies were being sent to Professor von Hagens's institute.

                Heidelberg University accused him of giving the impression that he was carrying the title of a German professor by calling himself "Professor Gunther von Hagens K√∂rperwelten" (K√∂rperwelten is German for Body Worlds), an allegation now under investigation by the Heidelberg district attorney.

Von Hagen forced to return controversial corpses to China

January 23, 2004 

               The controversial German anatomist Gunther von Hagens last night agreed to return seven corpses to China after admitting that the bodies used in his exhibitions might have come from executed prisoners. 

                The German magazine Der Spiegel revealed that at least two corpses out of some 647 stored by the anatomist at his centre in China had bullet holes in their skulls.

                "But I'm telling you, not even a bullet hole in the body can be proof that that person was sentenced to death. Out of all 650 bodies, seven had head injuries. This is completely normal, seeing the number of bodies."
                He added: "I can't prove the bodies weren't executed, but I believe they weren't." He said he received his bodies from Chinese officials but could not be sure of their origins.

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Secret Trade in Chinese Bodies

February 14, 2008

             The German doctor who invented the process that led to hundreds of human bodies being put on display around the world, says he has stopped using bodies from China because some of them may be those of executed Chinese prisoners.

                In an interview to be aired Friday on the ABC News program "20/20," Dr. Gunther von Hagens also says an underground black market is providing bodies to Chinese companies that export them to the U.S. and Europe, despite a 2006 Chinese law prohibiting the export of human bodies for commercial purposes.

The bodies are shown skinned and trimmed, in a variety of poses, including playing poker or at a chess board.

                Von Hagens says he had to cremate several bodies he received in China after detecting injuries that led him to suspect they had been executed prisoners. He says those bodies were given to him by a medical school in China to plastinate for teaching models. He said he only used Chinese bodies, all of which he received from the Chinese university, for teaching models, but has never put Chinese bodies on public display.

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Plastination: The Original Intention

The mastermind behind this operation is Gunther von Hagens, a controversial German anatomist who invented the technique for preserving biological tissue specimens called Plastination. (Barboza, D., 2006)

For the first 20 years plastination was used to preserve small specimens for medical study. It was not until the early 1990s that the equipment was developed to make it possible to plastinate whole body specimens, each specimen taking up to 1,500 person-hours to prepare.The first exhibition of whole bodies was displayed in Japan in 1995. Over the next two years, von Hagens developed the Body Worlds exhibition, showing whole bodies plastinated in lifelike poses and dissected to show various structures and systems of human anatomy, which has since met with public interest and controversy in more than 50 cities around the world. (Kaushik, 2011)

Initially, Dr. von Hagens says he had difficulty showing his human specimens in Europe, where he was called Dr. Death and Dr. Frankenstein. The European press even compared him to Josef Mengele, the Nazi death camp doctor. (Barboza, D., 2006)

Dr. von Hagens then came to China, where he said he found cheap labor, eager students, few government restrictions and easy access to Chinese bodies, which he said he primarily uses for experiments and medical research purposes, not for his exhibitions. (Barboza, D., 2006)

Let's go now to Dalian, in China Liaoning Province.

Elevated view of the entrance side of the Institute for Plastination.

In August1999, after people with influences pulled the strings, von Hagens moved his corpse-processing factory to the Hi-tech Industrial Park in Dalian and invested 15 million US dollars into the new company he founded here. That's where German doctor Gunther von Hagens set up a plastination company.The Dalian-based factory has so far produced tens of thousands of body specimens. (Gao, J., 2012)

Said von Hagens:" I want to show the human body as it has never been shown before. My ambition is to democratise anatomy. Before 1998, when I came on the scene, anatomy books contained no lifelike poses. Now they all have them. I gave anatomy life." (The Independent, 2007)

Body Worlds Exhibitions

Body Worlds is the original anatomical exhibition series displaying authentic human bodies, willed by donors through the Institute for Plastination’s Body Donor Program, and preserved using a process called plastination. Invented by Dr. von Hagens, plastination is a groundbreaking process in which real human specimens are preserved through the science of plastination. (Body Worlds, 2012)

The Method of Plastination

1. Embalming and Anatomical Dissection
The first step of the process involves halting decay by pumping formalin into the body through the arteries. Formalin kills all bacteria and chemically stops the decay of tissue. Using dissection tools, the skin, fatty and connective tissues are removed in order to prepare the individual anatomical structures.

2. Removal of Body Fat and Water
In the first step, the body water and soluble fats are dissolved from the body by placing it into a solvent bath (e.g., an acetone bath).

3. Forced Impregnation
This second exchange process is the central step in Plastination. During forced impregnation a reactive polymer, e.g., silicone rubber, replaces the acetone. To achieve this, the specimen is immersed in a polymer solution and placed in vacuum chamber. The vacuum removes the acetone from the specimen and helps the polymer to penetrate every last cell.

4. Positioning
After vacuum impregnation, the body is positioned as desired. Every single anatomical structure is properly aligned and fixed with the help of wires, needles, clamps, and foam blocks.

5.Curing (Hardening)
In the final step, the specimen is hardened. Depending on the polymer used, this is done with gas, light, or heat. Dissection and Plastination of an entire body requires about 1,500 working hours and normally takes about one year to complete.

Sources from The New York Times:

Sources from Amusing Planet:

Sources from Ministry of Tofu:

Sources from Body Worlds:

Von Hagens' Body World: Netizens Buzz About Origin of Plastination Bodies

 August 18, 2012

         Chinese netizens now suspect the bodies of the condemned prisoner in China were used for Vons Hagen's Body World. In 1999, von Hagens moved his corpse-processing factory to the Hi-tech Industrial Park in Dalian and invested 15 million US dollars into the new company he founded. Bo Xilai, a former high-ranking Chinese official deposed in disgrace after his wife was incriminated in a high- profile murder case involving a British national, was said to have approved of the relocation of the German-owned company in Dalian when he was the city's mayor.

Chen Lan, an author, wrote in her Weibo, " Donation of full body has a series of procedure to be followed strictly both in China and abroad, and the prerequisite is the consent of the deceased. China has an extremely low body-donation rate, so low that all medical schools are in dire need of cadavers. Even using human bodies for medical  purposes without consent from the deceased or the next-of-kin is illegal, much less the commercial display. The deceased also have dignity and would not have wanted to be pinned to stands with their bodies gutted and laid bare. Disrespect for the deceased is a form of comtemp for life."  

Photos of workers from Dalian-based Von Hagens plastination factory processing corpse, taken by photographer Ryan Pyle.

In Hagens' exhibition, the most controversial display item is a full body specimen of a young Chinese pregnant women with a 8-month old fetus in her uterus. According to the Chinese law, pregnant women cannot be executed. And even if they died from a fatal accident, there is no way that their family would agree to donate bodies of both of them. In fact, all specimens have only basic descriptions. No consent form signed by the individual or the family or any information regarding the identity of the individual, can be found. 

Source from:

August 26, 2012

             The coverage in the Epoch Times sparks intense discussion all over the Chinese Internet. Microblogs, Chinese news portal are all buzzing over the source of bodies used to make plastinated corpses in von Hagens Body World. The conversation on the internet began about one week after The Epoch Times first published on this story on Aug. 10 (The Epoch Times website is censored in China and no print version can be distributed in the mainland. Print versions of The Epoch Times in Chinese and English are pulished in Hong Kong), and the volume has become heavy.

             A search for "Hagens"- the pioneer in the plastination business on the the Sina Weibo on Aug. 16 at 10a.m. New York time produced more than 218,000 results; an hour later; there were 17,000 more posts regarding to Epoch Times stuff.

             Netizens made heavy references to a disclaimer posted on the website of one of the plastination companies, Premier exhibitions, as part of a settlement between the company and the New York State Attorney's office in May, 2008.

Screen shot of disclaimer posted on the website of one of the plastination companies, Premier Exhibitions. (The Epoch Times)
             A netizen named " Fangarr" referred to this disclaimer in asking over the past 3 years how many corpses and how many crimes have contributed to these exhibitions. He also asked what this meant for China:" What kind of role have we played? Does anyone have the guts to think about it?"
             Another, "Brilliant Carrer" said that: " In China, pregnant women are never given the death penalty. How is it possible coincidentally that so many pregnant women have died in prison? Even the structure of the fetus is complete?!! This is simply scary.
            China Finances, after raising the question of the interests behind the body business in Dalian, did not mention what The Epoch Times had uncovered: the roles of Gu Kailai and Bo Xilai.

Gu Kailai and her husband Bo Xilai
             Bo, as Communist Party cheif in Dalian City then governor of Liaoning Province, greatly expanded the prsons and loabor camps in Dalian City and Liaoning Province, and filled them with Falun Gong practioners who had gone to Beijing to protest the regime's prosecution. he personally approved the building of von Hagen's groundbreaking factory in Dalian.

              Gu, working with the Briton Neil Heywood as a trusted aide, saw the potential for making a profit off the incarcerated practitioners, according to a source familiar with the matter. After the persecution of Falun Gong began in July 1999, Gu began providing Falun Gong practitioners as subjects for forced organ harvesting to help feed the rapid expansion of the Chinese transplantation industry and she provided the corpses of pactitoners to plastination factories.

              As a media company operating in a highly censored industry that answer to the Communists Party's propaganda department, China Finance could not delve into this background.
              Heng He, a commentator on China, says the Chinese people understand more than the press can say. " Most people believe that Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai are capable of doing such a thing in Dalian and may of them now realize in can only happen in China under communist rule. But no newspaper can print that, " says He. 
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