Sunday, February 24, 2008

Bodies: Even a Guinea Pig Knows Better

Pictured Above: Premier Exhibition CEO Arnie Geller and the “Dalian University Plastination Laboratory” where exhibition bodies are procured and prepared.

By this time many Pittsburghers have undoubtedly been thrilled and enlightened by the sliced and diced cadavers on display at the Carnegie Science Center courtesy of Premier Exhibitions. “Bodies: The Exhibition” has created tidal waves of controversy as it has toured this country and the globe. Locally, the controversy took the form of one very brave, principled woman, Elaine Catz. Elaine was the Science Center’s education coordinator for 11 years prior to her resignation in protest of the exhibit. Catz warned the Science Center that the “plastinated” bodies on display were those of Chinese prisoners. She offered evidence that the Chinese government routinely executed prisoners IN ORDER TO harvest their bodies and body parts, IN ORDER TO keep their lucrative black market organ and body industry flush with new “inventory.” Instead, the Carnegie Science Center closed their eyes, ignored the grisly facts before them and chose the mega-profits associated with hosting an exploitative freak-show that reads like an artistic collaboration between the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer and Josef Mengele.

Nationally, the controversy prompted ABC’s 20/20 to look into the matter, sending investigative reporter Brian Ross to China to gather the facts. Those facts were quite sobering:

* Premier CEO Arnie Geller insists that all the bodies in his exhibition were legitimately acquired from a respected source ……China’s Dalian Medical University. But when asked, the university’s president flatly denied that they supply bodies to Geller or any other body merchant.

* Geller says the bodies are “prepared” at the Dalian University Plastination Laboratory. But 20/20 found there is no such lab on the university campus. Thirty miles away, however, there is a garbage-strewn property (pictured above) that uses the university’s name but has no present legal connection to it. This ramshackle location, which looks more like a Silence-of-the-Lambs workshop than a bona-fide laboratory, is where human and animal cadavers are skinned, filleted, plastinated and transformed into the “educational works of art” that Premier peddles.

* 20/20 pressed Dalian’s president and found the medical university DID own a 70% share of this “offsite” lab, but ended the collaboration when the world press started hounding them and when China made the exportation of human bodies or body parts illegal in 2006. The “university lab” is now a private company, but is still run by a professor from Dalian Medical University.

* Where does the lab get its bodies? Are they unclaimed indigents as Geller claims? Do some have papers showing the deceased gave their permission to be sliced, diced and displayed for the enormous benefit and profit of Mr. Geller? Caught on hidden camera, the lab manager told 20/20 he has no idea where the bodies come from. They just “arrive.”

* Chinese plastinated bodies can now be purchased online from a company called Corcoran Laboratories, Inc. Now isn't that special?

* The Chinese bodies come to the U.S. through the Port of Los Angeles. In order to circumvent U.S. laws regarding human remains, the bodies are listed as “plastic models” on the bill of lading. When asked about this transport description, CEO Geller says the bodies are so full of plastic that they can no longer be considered human bodies. They are basically just plastic models at this point. However, when advertising the exhibit and to attract the largest horde of gawking customers possible, Geller and all participating venues prominently advertise that people will get to see “real human bodies” when they plunk down their side-show admission fee.

Maybe this nightmare horror flick has finally had enough exposure to be outed as the abomination it actually is. Chinese-American Assemblywoman Fiona Ma from San Francisco has introduced legislation (AB 1519) which would require body importers to show proof that the corpses were legally donated. Without hard proof that the deceased agreed to become a titillating commodity, the corpse would be denied entry into this country. Says Ma: “We’ve made it a criminal offence to mutilate or violently or sexually abuse a corpse. And now in the 21st Century we have exhibits that have turned into multi-million dollar industries at the expense of someone’s son, father, daughter or unborn who do not wish to be there. This is more than dead body trafficking. This is grave robbing and abuse.” (You Tube Video)

But we as a society have become so sophisticated and enlightened, not much fazes us anymore. As one enthusiastic exhibit-goer put it: “It doesn’t bother me. I’m of the opinion that after we’re dead, we’re meat.”

But Rabbi Louis Feldstein of Atlanta feels differently: “I see a society that has turned death into entertainment. And thus what was once filled with hope and love and meaning and caring…..Another human being is now just this thing an audience can be entertained with.”

Unfortunately I think Rabbi Feldstein is speaking to a generation no longer with us. The generation who had to sift through the remains of Hitler’s death camps. The generation who was horrified that Jews had been slaughtered and that their skins were made into lampshades, their body fat made into soap.

Like Mr. “We’re Just Meat” above, today’s generation doesn’t blink at the sight of a human skin lampshade. Or a dead body skinned and posed running with a briefcase in one hand, grasping his own skin in his other hand. Skin which has been tossed casually over his own shoulder like an overcoat. No, today’s generation just proclaims these sights as “educational” and “art” and then quickly rushes to eBay or Corcoran Laboratory’s web site to purchase some of this extraordinary fine art for their own personal enjoyment.

I had the unfortunate experience of walking into an apartment yesterday where the owner had apparently “forgotten” and left two guinea pigs in a cage without food or water. One of the guineas was dead, the other was in an hysterical state. The live guinea sat on the highest perch possible, getting as far away from his dead friend as he could. He sat there screeching non-stop, making a noise I didn’t know was possible for a guinea pig. The poor little guy was thoroughly traumatized.

Yes, he wanted food and yes, he wanted water and yes, I gave him both. But most of all, the little guy wanted out of the cage where his dead friend lay soft, decaying and in a frighteningly flattened oozing form. Even Mr. Guinea Pig, with his little pea-sized brain, had the instinct (if not the intellect) to perceive the obvious difference between a dead comrade and just a piece of meat.

Postscript: Rep Christopher Smith of New Jersey is calling for a moratorium on all Bodies exhibits and asking the U.S. attorney general to investigate. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has started a probe on the exhibits in that state. And locally, WQED is holding a special televised town hall meeting edition of “On Q” on Thursday, Feb 28th at 7:30 PM. “On Q” panelists will range from the director of the Carnegie Science Center to the Allegheny County medical examiner to various religious and medical ethics leaders. If we’re lucky, this town hall session might renew and restore our human sensitivities to the level of those displayed yesterday by Mr. Guinea Pig. At least that is my hope.


Speaking Loud said...

Good article, but Pittsburg and the Carnegie Science Center knew months ago there was a possiblity these cadavers were prisoners. That did not stop them because they threw out their ethics when the cash drawer started ringing.

Only until Premier Exhibitions is fined for illegally bringing in cadavers into the U.S., furthering human trafficking and abuse of a corpse AND companies like Carnegie stop being greedy at the expense of the Chinese will we see an end to this.
Visitors in my opinion are also just as quilty of furthering this kind of human rights violation.

Char said...

Which is why the Carnegie Science Center will not see the likes of me ...... forever? For a long time? Until those running the place now shut the exhibit down, admit their gruesome complicity?

Point is ..... I love science. I'm a geek who is thrilled to understand the smallest of natural wonders. But I now have no plans to frequent the Center for any reason.

Mom de Guerre said...

It was a turning point for Hitler when he discovered what he could inflict whatever horror he wanted on Jews, the handicapped and other minority groups without a general outcry from the public. They accepted the inhumanity of it. It was at this point that he believed he could realize his vision. I agree, Char, I am sadly doubtful today's Americans would have the same reaction as our parents and grandparents.

But, try to take away any form of entertainment which of course all Americans are ENTITLED to consume, and WHOA, stand back for the outrage!

Growing up I was asked "what does this decision say about your character?" Does anyone ask themselves those questions anymore?

Char said...

I'm sure that question was central to how Britney Spears and her sister were raised ....

Jana said...

There is more horror going than you realise this cannot be allowed to rest..Mass live forced organ harvesting from the peaceful Falun Gong meditaters and Christians in China.

read the reports at

PLease help where ever you can thank you

Adi said...

Oes Tsetnoc one of the ways in which we can learn seo besides Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa. By participating in the Oes Tsetnoc or Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa we can improve our seo skills. To find more information about Oest Tsetnoc please visit my Oes Tsetnoc pages. And to find more information about Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa please visit my Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa pages. Thank you So much.
Oes Tsetnoc | Semangat Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa