Bodies Exhibit Calls for Another "Quiet" Boycott
The problem with the exhibit is the provenance of the bodies themselves. First, this is not the famous Dr. Gunther Von Hagens exhibit, in which individuals have specifically donated their bodies for exhibition. That exhibit, which has also traveled the world, actually has a waiting list of hundreds of people who have volunteered their bodies to Von Hagens.
No, this is a competing exhibit, in which bodies from Chinese prisons are leased to exhibitors. According to press reports, the bodies originate in Chinese prisons, are sold to a university in China, then are leased for approximately $5 million per year to exhibit organizers. The expenses are easily paid for by the $13 million in revenue from the traveling exhibit. Organizers insist they have documentation on each body that shows there were no shenanigans in its origins, but they refuse to make these records public. This stubborn refusal continues, in spite of the well-documented illicit Chinese trade in cadavers, body parts and spare organs -- all "donated" by residents of Chinese prisons.
So here are the questions responsible people should ask: "Why were these people in jail in the first place - were they political prisoners?" "How did they die?" "Were their deaths related to the potential bonanza of profits reaped by the Chinese authorities who sold them?" "Why aren't the records of these deaths open for public review?" "Is it appropriate to put on display the bodies of people who had no say in how their flesh is being treated after their death?"
And there are deeper questions, too, questions that apply to any exhibit, no matter the origin of the cadavers used: "Don't our ancient traditions call for deep respect to a person's physical remains?" "Is it right to make a profit out of our fascination with death?" "Is this exhibit another example of a 'Culture of Death' that is fascinated by death and pays little attention to nurturing life?"
I'd hate for these concerns to result in additional attention and revenue for the exhibit's organizers, but I'd also like to see its sloppy and questionable ethics go quietly away. So won't you join me in a "quiet" boycott?