Gunther von Hagens’ development of plastination as a method for preserving human remains has enabled his public display of skinless, dissected bodies in a series of popular international exhibitions entitled Body Worlds. These spectacular displays claim to be educative, democratizing the study of anatomy and liberating it from the traditional confines of professional medical study. However, Body Worlds has raised various ethical objections to its commercial purpose, sourcing of some bodies and arrangement of bodies in poses or dissections that some viewers find offensive. Here we consider a different, often overlooked ethical conundrum raised by these exhibitions: the likelihood that the viewing of plastinates posed in ‘frozen motion’ is ill-suited to the psychological development of young children (5-10 years old) whose understanding of death is still in formation. Often young children mistake corpses for models, even for living beings if they are posed in arrested motion. The educative value of Body Worlds for younger viewers is questionable and the display may even interfere with their understanding of death. If the exhibition of human remains can be justified where their authenticity can be made known to viewers and the remains invested by them with sympathetic emotional meaning, it may be pointless if not unethical to show quasi-lifelike posed plastinates to young children in lieu of replica models.

The Body Worlds Exhibits and Juvenile Understandings of Death: Do We Educate Children to Science or to Voyeurism?

DI VELLA, Giancarlo;VERZE', Laura;
2015

Abstract

Gunther von Hagens’ development of plastination as a method for preserving human remains has enabled his public display of skinless, dissected bodies in a series of popular international exhibitions entitled Body Worlds. These spectacular displays claim to be educative, democratizing the study of anatomy and liberating it from the traditional confines of professional medical study. However, Body Worlds has raised various ethical objections to its commercial purpose, sourcing of some bodies and arrangement of bodies in poses or dissections that some viewers find offensive. Here we consider a different, often overlooked ethical conundrum raised by these exhibitions: the likelihood that the viewing of plastinates posed in ‘frozen motion’ is ill-suited to the psychological development of young children (5-10 years old) whose understanding of death is still in formation. Often young children mistake corpses for models, even for living beings if they are posed in arrested motion. The educative value of Body Worlds for younger viewers is questionable and the display may even interfere with their understanding of death. If the exhibition of human remains can be justified where their authenticity can be made known to viewers and the remains invested by them with sympathetic emotional meaning, it may be pointless if not unethical to show quasi-lifelike posed plastinates to young children in lieu of replica models.
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bioethics of human remains, children, plastination
Bianucci, Raffaella; Soldini, Maurizio; Di Vella, Giancarlo; Verzé, Laura; Day, Jasmine
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/2318/1522576
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