‘Bodies Revealed’ revealed
Blockbuster exhibit sets attendance records for Da Vinci while raising ethical questions about origins of humans on display.
Cheryl Stevenson leaned in close, eyes straining to get a better look at the preserved human cadaver before her. The man’s skin had been peeled off, exposing his underlying muscles, tendons and bones, and his body was posed in a sprinter’s crouch, testes dangling below his hips.
“Oh my goodness,” the Nanticoke resident said, reacting to the Bodies Revealed exhibit that has shattered admissions records at the Da Vinci Science Center in Allentown. “For people to donate their bodies,” she continued. “I just can’t think of the words.”
Donated — that’s what the Da Vinci center maintains and the exhibit vendor assures, producing affidavits as evidence.
“Our suppliers have confirmed to us that all of the bodies and organ specimens … came from individuals who chose to donate their bodies to medical science for the purpose of study and education,” Da Vinci states on its website.
And yet, whether the Chinese men whose bodies are on display at Da Vinci ever imagined, let alone authorized such a spectacle is unclear. Neither Da Vinci nor the exhibit vendor, Atlanta-basedPremier Exhibitions Inc., was able to provide The Morning Call with conclusive documentation of consent. The company’s medical expert and lawyer said they have never seen a consent form and have relied on the word of Chinese and Taiwanese partners who are but middlemen in a global body supply chain.
The words “donate,” “donated” or “donation” do not appear in the annual report of Premier, a public company whose shares trade on the NASDAQ stock exchange. Rather, the report – referring to Premier’s multiple Bodies exhibits worldwide and not specifically to the one at the Da Vinci center – says, “Most of the bodies were unclaimed at death, and were ultimately delivered to medical schools for education and research.”
Premier’s critics include medical professionals and experts onChina who cite the country’s notorious human rights record. Their questions have trailed the Bodies exhibits for a decade:
Why are most of the bodies of Chinese men? Were these people Chinese prisoners? Were they executed?