Dead bodies are storming major cities throughout the United States, and will be showcased at a museum near you.
No, this is not the ploy of a major movie studio, in hopes of promoting the latest horror flick. These bodies are the brainchildren of German physician Gunther von Hagens, MD – a pioneer in the field of whole-body preservation.
The process by which organs, tissues and entire bodies are preserved is called "plastination." Invented by von Hagens in 1978 at the Institute for Anatomy at Heidelberg University in Germany, plastination is a preservation technique that has gained general acceptance and is currently being used at various institutions around the world. This technique allows specimens to be preserved in a durable and realistic state. And by replacing bodily fluids and fat with a polymer substance and then curing it with gas, light or heat, von Hagens found a method of preservation that stops decay and composition.
Moreover, all of the plastinates on display at Body Worlds are authentic. Through a donation program – similar to organ donation – people can make their bodies available for plastination after their deaths. The reasons people donate their bodies to the program vary; however, most say it's because they want to help others, including the medical community and laypersons, learn about their own bodies.
One donor commented, "I am particularly interested in having my body used to educate the general public. Sadly, many of us know more about our cars than our bodies. By expanding our knowledge of our body, we can lead healthier lives."
Before signing over their bodies in a declaration of intent, donors are provided with detailed information. The plastinates on display do not reveal the donor's identity. Every year, von Hagens meets with the donors in Heidelberg and gets their feedback about Body Worlds and the plastination phenomenon. And while some may be repulsed by the idea of donating their body to be on public display, others embrace it as an altruistic opportunity or a purpose for their life.
Despite your view on the morality of the exhibit, one fact remains: Body Worlds will cause spectators to reexamine their health. Encompassing plastinates of an obese man and a hard-partying individual, no unhealthy lifestyle is excluded in this exhibit. And, for smokers, Body Worlds provides a startling glimpse at the dangers of their addiction.
According to John Tyrell, who visited the exhibit in Los Angeles, "I knew the effects of smoking, but I wasn't motivated to give it up until I saw the black lung." And, to this day, Tyrell hasn't touched a cigarette.
According to Dana Morrisey, a 22-year-old woman who toured the Body World exhibit in Chicago, "[The obesity exhibit] was a case of reality bites. When I saw the obesity specimen, I knew that I would end up like that if I didn't make some changes."
Additionally, in an exit interview, 66 percent of Body Worlds spectators vowed to become more aware of their bodies. This, von Hagens says, is his ultimate goal. "Many who have seen the exhibition say it gave them the impetus to change. Since our mission is health education, we consider such changes the true achievement." (see more pictures here)
source: Therapy Times