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.