Russians outraged by their dead's end

April 6, 2001

Russians were horrified after a television station alleged that 56 corpses of prisoners and homeless men were sent from Siberia to Germany for scientific preservation at a controversial anatomical institute.

NTV reported last week that the bodies sent from Novosibirsk's State Medical Academy to Heidelberg's Institute for Plastination were to end up as exhibits in a Berlin show called "Korperwelten", or Bodyworld.

Bodyworld uses corpses and body parts kept flexible by a preservation process invented by German scientist Gunther von Hagens. Residents of Novosibirsk, home to many universities and research institutes, were said to be outraged, although the medical academy rector told NTV the bodies were exported for scientific purposes.

The NTV report followed German press stories accusing Dr von Hagens of stealing Siberian bodies. Thomas Knuth of the German institute defended the imports. He said NTV had misinterpreted a legal and scientific exchange and that none of the bodies was to be exhibited.

Only the bodies of those who specifically gave permission for their corpses to be exhibited would be displayed in Bodyworld, Mr Knuth said.

"This particular consignment arrived in October and is under process of plastination in China," he said. The plastination process can take up to a year.

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