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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Exhibit offers unique look at human body

Wed Sun: By: Kelli Bamforth, Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 5, 2008 4:16 AM CST

Union Station’s provocative “Bodies Revealed” exhibit opened Friday to a crowd that, for the most part, enjoyed the sights.

“I thought it was great,” Angela Wichlinski, Overland Park, said. “I took a gross anatomy class in college. It was awesome seeing everything labeled. It is a fabulous tool for students. … Actually seeing what it’s like inside the body is very different than looking at a picture.”

The exhibit allows ticket holders 90 minutes to observe bodies, organs, bones and nerves.

The exhibit has prompted questions about using unclaimed bodies in the exhibit and whether such use honors or dignifies the dead on display.

A recent television report on ABC’s “20/20” revealed that the bodies may be executed Chinese prisoners and Falun Gong dissidents. Falun Gong is “a traditional Chinese spiritual discipline that includes exercise and meditation,” according to The practice has been banned in China since 1999.

All “Bodies Revealed” specimens came from a medical university in the People’s Republic of China, where the bodies are preserved and dissected.

The exhibit’s producer, Premier Exhibitions, has acknowledged using unclaimed bodies in the related “Bodies…The Exhibit,” but said all bodies at the Union Station exhibit have been willingly donated by people who died of natural causes.

Wichlinski said none of the exhibit’s nine galleries made her uncomfortable.

“It made me a little nervous coming after hearing about the controversy,” she said. “But for me, the educational aspects far outweigh the questions and the unknown.”

For Amy Herrmann, Kansas City, the “ick” factor caused her to speed through the exhibit, skipping most of it. She waited for her group in the gift shop.

“I just didn’t feel comfortable,” she said. “But I don’t want to talk it down. It is a very cool idea. I looked at the skeletons … they were very interesting.”

Richard Humble, Blue Springs, works for Metropolitan Ambulance Services Trust in Kansas City and said he expected more.

“I’m in the medical field and expected a little more detailing on the labels,” he said. “But for the general public, it is very educational.”

Humble said he observed some high school students as he walked through the exhibit.

“They were pointing out body parts and gaining insights into what they saw,” he said. “I was impressed with that. It was more than I expected from high school students.”

A few days before “Bodies Revealed” opened, Catholic officials in Kansas City released a statement urging area Catholic schools not to take students to the exhibit.

“Catholic moral teaching regards the human person as a unity of soul and body, spirit and matter,” Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of the Diocese of Kansas City in Kansas and Bishop Robert W. Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph said. “We regard the ‘Bodies’ exhibit as an unfortunate exploitation of that which is ‘real’ to teach something that could be accomplished by the use of models. As such it represents a kind of ‘human taxidermy’ that degrades the actual people who, through their bodies, once lived, loved, prayed and died.

“The bodies of the dead deserve respect and charity, preserving the God-given dignity of the human person.”

Kevin Carter, Kansas City, Kan., and his wife, Debbie, said they felt comfortable throughout the exhibit and found it “very interesting.”

“I love that people will see just how similar we all are,” Carter said.

He said the exhibit honors the dead in a different way.

“When you learn from someone who may not have had a chance to teach in their life, it’s a good thing,” he said.

Carter said he might consider donating his body to science.

“I’d consider doing it myself,” he said, laughing, “to show ’em what bad bones look like.”

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