News July 7, 2023 Body Worlds returns to Boston in the backbay. Real human bodies are used to create models that are mostly plastic. If they are mostly plastic, why use human bodies? To sell tickets. Carefully review this site to learn more. If you agree that this exhibit is wrong, please let me know by email, by submitting a comment on this site or by email, by going public with your opinion (please let me know if you do this) or by joining me to demonstrate. Email me here.
Opinion: There are some things that we know, instinctively, to be wrong. For example, it is wrong to commit murder. It is wrong to hurt other people's feelings. And it is wrong to show disrespect to other human beings. It is not necessary, and perhaps not possible to prove that these things are wrong. As the poet Lucebert said, "All things of value are defenseless."
Why is this exhibit wrong? Out of respect for the living, the bodies of the deceased should be treated with respect. By treating our bodies as mere objects like this exhibit does, we cheapen the value of life. As we reduce ourselves to objects, we open ourselves to the attitude that who cares if a few, or a few million, of these objects are damaged or killed. Hitler and Stalin both dehumanized their victims to make their destruction more palatable. The cost to human dignity of this exhibit is incalculable. Is that a price worth paying for things that could be learned just as well by other means? We don't need to see "real" plasticized bodies to know that human beings are complicated and fascinating. In fact we never need real objects to educate ourselves.
I am not willing to pay the price. Are you?
News:June 2017 Prague 7 Mayor attempts to shut down bodies exhibit. AS reported by the New York Times, Mayor Jan Cizinsky in response to citizen complaints, is attempting to enforce a law requiring municipal authorities to bury all bodies. We salute Mr. Cizinsky and the citizen who researched the law, Mr. Benda, and wish them all success. More details in The New York Times
BODY WORLDS: VITAL is opened in Boston at Faneuil Hall Marketplace on November 22. I demonstrated on Friday, November 22, 2013 at 11 AM, and Saturday November 23, And handed out the pamphlet that follows. questions? contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
THIS IS WRONG!November 22 is the anniversary of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy's assassination. It is also the day that Body Worlds: Vital opens at Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston. Body Worlds is an exhibit of real plasticized human bodies; the skin is removed and the liquid is replaced with plastic. What’s left, a flayed human body, is displayed to the public in various poses for the price of an admission ticket. Let me take you out of your comfort zone. Suppose one of the bodies was that of John Fitzgerald Kennedy? I am sure that you would be outraged. But would your outrage be because of the lack of respect for a president or because of the lack of respect for a fellow human being. I believe that your instinctual reaction is because it was the body of a fellow human. Don't you think that all human beings deserve the same respect? It may be difficult to put in words why we should render this respect. Our forefathers realized that some things could not easily be reduced to logic. That is why the Declaration of Independence speaks of self-evident truths. Human dignity is one of those self-evident truths along with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.To the owners and tenants of the Faneuil Hall marketplace Body Worlds: Vital is a source of foot traffic. While I sympathize with the need to draw in the crowds , a disrespectful circus sideshow is not the way to do it. You may be told that the exhibit is educational. This might be true but it is still disrespectful. Marketing the exhibit as educational is an attempt to overcome our discomfort. The real bodies are at least 90% plastic. There is no reason why they could not be 100% plastic. So why are real bodies used? It's sensational and sensationalism sells tickets. I hope you will boycott Body Worlds: Vital and also boycott the tenants of the Faneuil Hall Marketplace while the exhibit is present. Let's restore dignity to our fellow man and keep Boston strong.Aaron Ginsburg
News:Sept 25, 2012 Israeli Supreme Court Closes Bodies Exhibition The Judges wrote:"There is no disagreement that the kind of conduct we see in front of us violates human dignity, including the dignity of the dead." Read the story and see a video report at ndtv. I am grateful to David Schonberg who kept me informed about this case.
Sept 17, 2010 Body exhibit banned in France! as reported in an article on france24.com "According to the presiding judges, the display of corpses for commercial purposes goes against the French civil code, which states: "The remains of the deceased should be treated with respect, dignity and decency"." read the full story. Thanks to Richard Sedillot for arguing this case in the French Courts.
note: in the two cases described above, the courts went to the heart of the case, Human Dignity, although the cases were brought on the grounds that there was no permission for use of the bodies. In this case, the courts listened to a higher authority.
a medical student speaks out:
Sept. 11, 2011
I am a medical student and have dissected several cadavers. I am deeply disturbed by Body Worlds and other such exhibits and the general public acceptance of them. When learning from a cadaver in class, all cadavers are covered, with the only part exposed being the part of which we want to learn from. This helps preserve the body and shows respect for it. I have dissected cadavers in three separate schools. Respect for the cadavers is a must or you will be kicked out of the class. We are not to make jokes about the cadavers, disrespectful remarks, put them in positions for amusement/art (I think we would be expelled if we did that), they are to be nameless, all body parts must stay with the specific cadaver, and we are to only uncover parts being studied. When learning, cadavers are always in anatomical position, not "running" or what ever amusing "artistic" position can be thought up. Learning about the body in this way does not take the individuals dignity or make us value life less, because we are taught to respect it. Since class sizes are small in lab, teachers can rep remand students who attempt to devalue the cadaver.
When I first saw the Body World poster I was horrified. I was certain it would be closed down soon when I heard it was claiming to be "science." As I thought, people in science would never allow this disregard and horrendous display of the human body. Now ever day I drive past the bill boards to school and see it and it really makes me sick. It saddens me very much that so many people cannot see how devaluing this is and how much this will make the next generation devalue human life.
Amanda Jones St Louis, MO
Everywhere you turn an exhibit of real human bodies is about to open up in a shopping mall or a "science" museum. These exhibits, with names such as Body Worlds, Bodies: the Exposition, and Our Bodies, The Universe Within loudly boast that they consist of plasticized real human To defuse our inhibitions and overcome taboos about what may be done with the human body the exhibits claim that they are uniquely educational and that they will inspire people to be more concerned with their health. To questions about the source of the bodies, Body Worlds claims to have obtained permission; other exhibits point to "legal" sources in China(but read the scathing commentary by Eric Heyl).
So what's the problem? The problem is not the source of the bodies. Even if there was no doubt on this count, the exhibits are wrong, and nobody can give you permission to do something that is wrong.
Our natural inhibitions make us uncomfortable with the display of the bodies of the deceased ... It is not always possible or necessary to come up with a reason why something is wrong, but if I was to single out one reason, it would be that we show respect for the living by respecting the remains of the deceased. These exhibits cheapen the value of life . It is a short step to treating people as objects that in their turn are not particularly valuable.
The plasticized real bodies are very unreal, and deny the reality of death. Their public display is convenient for gawking but the purported benefits to science and education originate from Madison Avenue. Most importantly, although the exhibits try to have it both ways and claim to be art as well as science, human beings are not works of art.
Much has been written about these exhibits. An article by Pastor Christoph Reiners which resulted in the Abbotsford BC schools banning field trips influenced me deeply. Norman Lebrecht's pungent article pungent discusses the case against as does Rabbi Danny Schiff. Be sure to read Elaine Catz's op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Elaine resigned from the Carnegie Science Center because of her outrage about the exhibit there. Listen to Linda Schulte-Sass explaining how the exhibit is marketed to American audiences. Also see philosopher Rob Van Gerwen's thoughtful take on the subject. Professor Van Gerwen discusses whether and when it is permissible to "give" our bodies, human dignity, and whether the proponents or opponents of the exhibits should have the burden of proof.
If you review the links above, and the many comments and the many additional links on this site, you will find that some opponents invoke religion, and some do not. There are some things that we know are wrong instinctively, and the display of plasticized human bodies for the titillation of the public is one of them.
Aaron Ginsburg Natick, Massachusetts, USA
left: Memorial to the unknown Chinese Amsterdam above: poster by Frank Shifreen