Controversial exhibition of human bodies meets with opposition in Prague

Photo: CTK

For the last three years, "BODIES...The Exhibition" has been travelling around the globe giving over 16 million people the rare experience of seeing what they look like on the inside. The exhibition has now made it to Prague's Lucerna hall, where over twenty preserved real male human bodies - their muscles, organs, veins and more - will be showcased until the end of October. But the exhibition is already meeting with opposition. The Czech Catholic Church and some Charles University professors are appalled by the fact that real bodies are being used to make money and have called this immoral and barbaric.

The renowned Catholic Priest, Tomas Halik, is one of the exhibition's biggest opponents:

"I fear that if we allow the use of dead bodies as exhibition material just for the sake of business and sensation then it means that our civilisation has descended below a human level."

Photo: CTK
Mr Halik also opposes the fact that visitors to the exhibition are given detailed explanations on the way the body system works by medical students from Prague's Charles University. Some have even accused the students of breaking the medical code of ethics. On Wednesday, Tomas Halik sent an open letter to Charles University, asking its Rector Vaclav Hampl to persuade students to give up their part-time jobs. But the students and doctors like the President of the Czech Association of General Physicians, Vaclav Smatlak, believe that the exhibition is a valuable anatomy lesson that no university study programme could ever replace. Dr. Smatlak already saw BODIES in London and would find it a pity if it were to be closed ahead of schedule in Prague:

Photo: CTK
"It is an opportunities for medical students, doctors, and the general public as well to see the whole body and see it three dimensional. During anatomy lessons students can only see a small part of the body. When they see the whole body it's quite hard to imagine how everything is connected between the tissues, muscles, bones and nerves."

The only reservation that Dr Smatlak has is that the organisers have only said that the exhibited human bodies come from China but have not revealed any more information on how they were obtained. Some suspect that they are bodies of political prisoners while others fear that the people did not even give their consent before they died to have their bodies preserved.

Photo: CTK
The Czech Anatomy Society has also criticised the exhibition and MP Boris Stastny has gone a step further, demanding its immediate closure:

"A situation in which dead bodies are exhibited - dissected and skinned - I think goes beyond the parameters of morality and ethics."

The exhibition's organisers have no intention of closing ahead of schedule. They say if opponents themselves attended the exhibition they would immediately realise that their criticism is unfounded. The depiction of the human body is so unique, they argue, that anyone who sees it leaves with a lasting respect and understanding for his body and the complex way the skeletal, muscular, respiratory, and circulatory systems function.