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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Naked photos? Outrageous! Naked dead bodies? Who cares?

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The Enquirer: How do you mend a broken heart? Call 1-800-CHINA. According to an investigation by Canada's former secretary of state, China is the Wal-Mart of warm body parts.

"We have fresh corneas," a Chinese transplant surgeon told investigators. "Just taken from bodies."

Another doctor promised beating hearts from live bodies. The price list: kidney, $62,000; liver, $98,000; kidney-pancreas, $150,000; lung, $150,000; heart, $130,000; cornea, $30,000.

A surgeon promised to obtain blood tests to match organs: "They will find a way. What do you worry about? These kinds of things should not be of any concern to you. They have their procedures."

He was asked, "Does the person know that his organ will be removed?"

"No, he doesn't," the surgeon replied.

Another question: "... And it was from healthy Falun Gong practitioners?"

"Correct. We would choose the good ones because we assure the quality in our operation."

Falun Gong, also called "Chinese yoga," is an Eastern religion involving healthy Tai Chi-style exercises and tolerance, compassion and truthfulness. It became so popular, the Chinese Communists declared war on it in 1999, rounding up thousands of religious prisoners.

"We believe that there has been and continues today to be large-scale organ seizures from unwilling Falun Gong practitioners," said the 2006 report by Canada's former Secretary of State David Kilgour and human rights lawyer David Matas.

It quoted a woman who said her husband removed corneas from at least 2,000 Falun Gong practitioners, who were murdered for organ harvesting, then cremated.

Recent reports by human rights groups describe torture, drug experiments, psychiatric detention and executions for body parts. They say half of China's organ donors are unaccounted for.

"We have to ask where this organ or body is coming from," said Dr. Wenyi Wang of New York.

She was in town last week for a discussion of "Bodies ... The Exhibition" at the Cincinnati Museum Center, which displays plastinated cadavers. All are Chinese. Most are young men. None gave consent. They were "unclaimed," according to Museum Center officials.

Wang says they may be Falun Gong believers. "Many of their bodies are unidentified because they didn't give up their names (when arrested), to protect their families," she said.

Wang, a human rights protester and surgical pathologist, was part of a panel discussion about the exhibit May 22 at the Freedom Center, focusing on religion.

"The body is entitled to reverence and respect, even after death," said Rabbi Gerry Walters of Shalom Temple. Using bodies to make money is irreverent, undignified, "even shameful," he said. "You should ask yourself as I did, would you want your loved ones put on display like this and stared at by thousands of people?"

The Rev. Rob Jack of Mount St. Mary's Seminary said Catholics agree. "We are much more than merely flesh and blood. There is something transcendent in us, both living and dead." But "cognitive dissonance" keeps people from realizing the moral implications, he said. "If it's at the Museum Center, we think it must be OK."

Wang said the exhibit defiles 5,000 years of Chinese belief that the body is a gift from heaven.

But some people don't care. They don't want to hear about religion. They don't want morals to interfere with their morbid curiosity. They don't want any ethics broccoli with their cheeseburger entertainment.

As I listened to the discussion, I wondered how we got here - with posters, billboards and vivid color ads of desecrated corpses all over town. We can't even go grocery shopping without being stared at by some poor Chinese man who has been sliced apart for our viewing pleasure.

A few have protested. But the same Cincinnati that famously popped a vein over photos of naked perverts and "artwork" at the county morgue has hardly twitched an eyebrow over a parade of naked corpses.

It must be the 11th Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Ask Inconvenient Moral Questions.

But here's one anyway, from the Report into Allegations of Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Parishioners in China. It fits "Bodies ... The Exhibition" like a pair of rubber gloves:

"The allegations here are so shocking that they are almost impossible to believe. The allegations, if true, would represent a grotesque form of evil which, despite all the depravations humanity has seen, would be new to this planet. The very horror makes us reel back in disbelief. But that disbelief does not mean that the allegations are untrue."

Or, as they say in China, "These kinds of things should not be of any concern to you."

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