Controversial Bodies: Thoughts on the Public Display of Plastinated Corpses
Edited by John Lantos
Johns Hopkins University Press
Controversial, fascinating, disturbing, and often beautiful, plastinated human bodies―such as those found at Body Worlds exhibitions throughout the world―have gripped the public's imagination. These displays have been lauded as educational, sparked protests, and drawn millions of visitors. This book looks at the powerful sway these corpses hold over their living audiences everywhere.
Plastination was invented in the 1970s by German anatomist Gunther von Hagens. The process transforms living tissues into moldable plastic that can then be hardened into a permanent shape. Von Hagens first exhibited his expertly dissected, artfully posed plastinated bodies in Japan in 1995. Since then, his shows have continuously attracted so many paying customers that they have inspired imitators, brought accusations of unethical or even illegal behavior, and ignited vigorous debates among scientists, educators, religious leaders, and law enforcement officials.
These lively, thought-provoking, and sometimes personal essays reflect on such public displays from ethical, legal, cultural, religious, pedagogical, and aesthetic perspectives. They examine what lies behind the exhibitions' popularity and explore the ramifications of turning corpses into a spectacle of amusement. Contributions from bioethicists, historians, physicians, anatomists, theologians, and novelists dig deeply into issues that compel, upset, and unsettle us all.
"This work is an important contribution to the bioethics literature and one of the first volumes dedicated to the ethics of the public display of plastinated corpses. Highly recommended." - Choice
"A rich survey of the issues provoked by the public display of plastinated corpses backed up by an impressive range of scholarship." - Alastair V. Campbell
"A dozen authors discuss issues surrounding the display of human bodies whose flesh has been preserved by plastic." - Science News
About the Author
John Lantos grew up in the rugged mountains of western Pennsylvania coal country. His father, a physician, was his childhood hero and role model. His mother, a poet at heart, inspired him to become a writer. He is an award-winning pediatrician, a prolific author, a beloved teacher, and an inspirational speaker.
Lantos was a resident in DC during the national controversy about Baby Doe, a baby with Down Syndrome. That sparked a lifelong interest in bioethics and led to a post-doc fellowship at The University of Chicago. There, his groundbreaking work on neonatal bioethics and health policy led to leadership roles as Chief of General Pediatrics and Associate Director of the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, and Associate Editor of Pediatrics. Fifteen years ago, he moved to Kansas City to create and develop the Children’s Mercy Bioethics Center.