I have written about the devil before, but always in a metaphorical way. However, I now feel that an evil force has come too close to home. Even this embattled “health care warrior” was shocked to the core to learn that school children in my district were being taken on a trip to see an exhibit called “Body Worlds” at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. This goes against all religious and ethical beliefs in the civilized world, and has given me nightmares from just looking at the website.
The Body Worlds exhibit consists of cadavers and body parts preserved by a process called Plastination invented by Gunther von Hagens. The exhibition moves around the country and the world, and now consists of 25 dead bodies and 175 body parts. The bodies are posed in various positions, and the skin is peeled off revealing the skeletal system, organs, arteries, and veins. One of the specimens shows a dead pregnant woman with her womb cut, and the fetus hanging out. Hagens, a scientist, calls his exhibit “art.” He also uses this technique on animals.
While his invention of Plastination, which preserves the body and prevents it from deterioration, does have beneficial uses for the medical and scientific community, it has no valid reason to be on public display. Many critics have called the Body Worlds exhibit a “shameless freak show” as well as “degrading and disrespectful to the dead.”
Von Hagens was investigated for various charges including disturbing the dead because he was photographing dead bodies all over Hamburg, Germany. He was also charged with obtaining bodies illegally, and violating animal rights. He solicits bodies for his exhibit, including the terminally ill. He even wanted to plastinate the late Pope John Paul II. A 2002 BBC News article states that there were 4,500 people offering their bodies to von Hagen to be used for public display. Since he offers a fee, this opens up all kinds of moral and ethical issues.
Von Hagan was jailed in East Germany for being against the Communist form of government, but his tactics are reminders of a different form of government: Nazism. His exhibit reminds us of the hideous experiments on human beings during the Holocaust. In fact, his father was a high official in the Nazi SS. All civilized societies honor and respect the dead, and have strict rules of scientific experimentation on human subjects.
Subjecting impressionable youths to this type of exhibition cannot have any real merit. It can bring about nightmares, and even changes in a developing personality. Further, it can cause children to grow up with a callous attitude toward the dead and the preservation of life. This can lead to irrational, and even violent behavior. We have all seen the effects of this in incidents such as Columbine where the children involved were intrigued with the Nazi philosophy. It is the role of schools to protect the children they are entrusted with, and the role of parents to prevent their children from being exposed to this type of destructive display. Yes, this time, the devil has really come to town!