Brno - Admired by some, repudiated by others. A hotly debated exhibit of cadavers of human bodies is coming to Brno-Modřice despite the fact Czech lawmakers promised last summer such exhibitions will be banned in the country.
The highly publicized Bodies… The Exhibition produced by company Premier Exhibitions displays human remains of Chinese citizens, obtained from the Chinese Bureau of Police.
Now the controversial part comes: the Chinese police may have received the bodies in prisons, which would mean the cadavers come from Chinese prisoners, who could have been executed by the Chinese communist regime.
Furthermore, the company does not know where the origins of the bodies come from.
"Premier relies solely on the representations of its Chinese partners and cannot independently verify that they (human bodies) do not belong to persons executed while incarcerated in Chinese prisons," Premier writes in a statement.
Once upon a time..
Two years ago a similar exhibition staged in Prague drew a great deal of media attention, sparking a debate among experts, politicians and the public alike. Some argued the exhibit inspired laypeople to learn about the beauty and complexity of the internal structure of the human body but others stressed that the origins of the cadavers must be clear under all circumstances.
Interestingly, it stirred more mixed reactions with the experts and doctors who labeled the exhibit as "unethical", some calling for an immediate ban.
"I consider the exhibition scandalous. I think the Czech Republic should not be among the countries that allows anything like that," Miloš Grim, the Medical Faculty's Anatomical Institute said at that time.
Czech bill for the Czechs
Among the vocal critics was also doctor Boris Šťastný from the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) who called for closing the exhibit. He drafted a bill that would ban such exhibits. It was signed by Czech president Václav Klaus a year ago.
But having the bill enforced still does not help in the case of the Chinese bodies.
"The bill protects the rights of Czech citizens and those who die in the Czech Republic," Boris Šťastný told Aktuálně.cz. "Bodies of these people may be exhibited on the condition they give a written consent to having their bodies used for the purposes of anatomical or scientific education," he added.
The Brno exhibit kicks off on Tuesday and the organizer claims Czech law does not require to have a consent of the Chinese deceased.
"But the remains of the Bodies exhibit were obtained in an unknown way," Šťastný said. "So once again, they display dead bodies of people who may have not given the required consent and once again, it is an issue of ethics," he added.
The only institute that could decide whether to stage the exhibit or not is the local council of Modřice. Local health officials would have to rule that displaying human bodies infringe health rules. Šťastný is in favor of this idea.
"After all, these are not artistic items, as the organizers say, but human bodies," he says.