Five-Finger Discount on Seattle Kidneys


Bodies…The Exhibition is a traveling exhibit of dissected, preserved human cadavers. It's a clone of Gunther von Hagens' Body Worlds exhibit, the wildly successful tour of dead bodies in wacky (and gender-stereotyped) poses. Bodies…The Exhibition (love that ellipsis!) is playing to crowds in Seattle, among other places. And some disgruntled Seattleite, it seems, has just made off with a preserved kidney. I have no idea where you resell a stolen plastinated kidney, but apparently the organ is worth $1,000.

I have a lot of sympathy for von Hagens' supposed mission: confronting the elitism of the medical profession and demystifying the human body. There is no reason why legitimately obtained organs shouldn't be on display for curious people willing to pay. (The exhibits bill themselves as "educational"—which I suppose they are in the same way that freak shows are educational.)

But in researching an upcoming story, I've listened to a bunch of anatomists gripe about both shows. There are serious questions as to where the cadavers came from and whether anyone bothered to obtain informed consent. There is also the matter of profit, given that exhibitors are making money off of hefty entrance fees. Whether you're for or against trading kidneys for cash, the legal status of Body Worlds should seem strange. You can't sell a kidney to someone who needs it, but apparently you can charge someone $21.50 to stare at it.

Via Kevin, M.D.

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  1. Someone also stole a preserved fetus from one of his exhibitions. Source.

  2. I’ve heard the criticism about where the bodies come from before, but don’t get it.

    Just as you left the exhibition I saw in Philly, there were stacks of forms for anyone wishing to donate themselves to the exhibit.

    They at least give the impression that it’s on the up and up.

  3. “…and whether anyone bothered to obtain informed consent.”

    I can see how that would be a problem. It’s notoriously hard to get dead people to sign legal documents.

  4. “You can’t sell…but you can charge…to look..”

    Been true of other, uhm, body parts for quite some time now (ahem)

  5. I have a lot of sympathy for von Hagens’ supposed mission: confronting the elitism of the medical profession and demystifying the human body.

    Maybe he can do the same thing for the legal profession — “Uniform Commercial Code . . . The Exhibition”

  6. There were a couple of…’concerned citizens’ with issues regarding the bodies exhibit here in Seattle. One, maybe two people were able to stir enough controversy to 1: get their name in the paper and 2: create a false ‘health concern’ over the display of the bodies which actually resulted in a King County Health Department inspection. Seattle, afterall hadn’t banned anything in 30 or 40 minutes, so the natives were getting restless.

  7. who at reason was putting on that weird street show with in a monkey suit conducting medical awareness messages and the hot stripper in a fetish nurse uniform…named “nurse runs with scissors” or something?

    And does she any time soon plan on visiting the pacific NW and what is her phone number?

  8. Wonder if you could mount an exhibition of, say, dead cats.

  9. If I recall correctly, the consent flap was over displays that may or may not have contained the bodies of condemened prisoners from China?

  10. Didn’t I just see Body Worlds in the new James Bond movie? What an odd item for product placement.

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