This statement was provided by:
– MUDr. Milan Kubek, president of the Czech Medical Chamber
– doc. MUDr. Ondřej Naňka, Ph.D., chairmain of the Czech Anatomical Society
– doc. MUDr. PhDr. Jan Payne, PhD., chairman of the Society of Medical Ethics
– Prof. MUDr. Štěpán Svačina, DrSc., chairman of the Czech Medical Society JEP
– Czech Anatomical Society
– La Strada
– League of Human Rights
– Human Rights Without Borders
We are concerned about the following:
1/ The information about the origin of the bodies is inconsistent. The website promoting the exhibition states that the bodies came from voluntary donors, but there are no details regarding how consent was obtained from the deceased or from their next of kin, or whether the alleged donors were informed that their bodies would be used for commercial purposes.
It is not ethical to make money from dead bodies, especially if the deceased were not informed about this. To date, no documentation has been provided showing that consent was given, or under what conditions.
The organizers do mention that the owner of the exhibition is U.S. company Imagine Exhibitions. During an interview last year with Nevada Public Radio, Tom Zaller, the CEO of this company, said that he works with a doctor in China who gathers unidentified bodies in Liaoning Province, and plastinates them for display. Given that these bodies are unidentified, then consent has not been given and the website statement about “voluntary donors” is invalid.
Based on numerous reports of human rights abuse by communist authorities in China, there is reasonable suspicion that these bodies were not obtained by legal means. The resolution of the European Parliament (PE581.440v01-00) from 2016 refers to regular and reliable reports regarding systematic organ harvesting from Chinese prisoners of conscience without their consent, specifically Falun Gong practitioners, Uyghurs, Tibetans and house Christians. The bodies and organs of prisoners that became victims of illegal organ harvesting may also have been sold for plastination.
2/ Currently there is a push for new legislation regarding funerals, which would effectively ban exhibitions of plastinated bodies if there is no consent paperwork. It is expected to take effect after the exhibition ends, and points out this issue with such exhibitions: “It is forbidden to preserve and display conserved or embalmed human bodies, especially for commercial purposes (exhibitions of plastinated bodies), if the deceased did not consent to this during his or her life (Parliamentary Press 954, special section).
3/ Plastinated dead bodies and body parts are being displayed for commercial purposes. The Czech Republic is part of the Convention of the Council of Europe against the trafficking of human organs. If the creators of the exhibition are profiting from displaying organs, the Czech Republic should remove all support from such activities.
4/ We are also concerned that the exhibition promoter is working with medical students to create the impression that this is a legitimate and educational activity. However, visitors to this public display of dead bodies could in fact be deterred from donating their bodies to science for legitimate medical research. The Czech Anatomical Society has taken a negative position against the exhibit, saying in a statement: “It is not acceptable to perform an autopsy or preserve organs and then display them for commercial purposes.”
We therefore believe that the exhibition does not meet the ethical and moral standards required to be part of the culture of Czech Republic.
We call upon the organizers of the Body the Exhibition to:
(i) Provide the informed consents of the alleged donors and prove that the deceased consented to their bodies being used for commercial purposes and publicly displayed;
(ii) Verify the origin of the organs on display and prove that they do not belong to Chinese prisoners of conscience.