No stolen Russian bodies in exhibit, doctor says
ALLAN HALL in BERLIN
GUNTHER von Hagens, the German doctor who preserves human corpses and exhibits them to the public, has denied any involvement in an illegal trade with stolen corpses from Russia.
The respected Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported that two doctors at the Novosibirsk State Medical Academy were charged after an investigation that began last year when customs officials halted a grisly shipment addressed to the Institute for Plastination in Heidelberg, which Dr von Hagens heads.
In a statement, Dr von Hagens rejects the allegations against him and denies any Russian participation in his Body Worlds exhibition, which is showing in London.
The exhibition consists of human bodies that have been pumped with preservative plastics, then flayed and partly dissected to reveal what is inside. One of the most popular figures is a man riding a rearing horse - the body of the animal having also been preserved and partially dissected.
Dr von Hagens said: "There is definitely no Russian involvement the Body Worlds exhibition. Neither 56 corpses nor 400 prepared brains from Russia were sold to the Institute for Plastination and we did not arrange any exhibitions in any form."
He brushed off reports in the German media this week, saying "it is mere fantasy".
But Dr von Hagens admitted he had met Professor Anatoly Efremov, dean of the Novosibirsk Medical Academy, who gave him anatomical preparations last year that were then "plastinated" by the German institute.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta cited unnamed sources in medical circles in Novosibirsk as saying the corpses and brain parts belonged to homeless people, prison inmates and psychiatric patients whose relatives did not claim their bodies.
Prof Efremov said the bodies were to have been sent back to Novosibirsk and used for experiments after being treated by the German institute. He said bodies preserved using Dr von Hagens’ technique are safer to work with than those preserved in formaldehyde, the paper reported.
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