Props to the New York Times for rooting out a China scoop that covers all of those hot China topics — human rights, sourcing and intellectual property rights — all at once. And all of this is done while covering the topic of the country’s growing cadaver industry. Ick. But it’s one of those things that is potentially so awful, partly because it is not far-removed from some very real issues and problems here, that you can’t help but keep reading. Basically, the grisly industry has sprung up because of Mr. Gunther von Hagens’ (aka Dr. Death or Dr. Frankenstein) controversional plastinized cadaver exhibitions:
Inside a series of unmarked buildings, hundreds of Chinese workers, some seated in assembly line formations, are cleaning, cutting, dissecting, preserving and re-engineering human corpses, preparing them for the international museum exhibition market.
The mastermind behind this operation is Gunther von Hagens, a 61-year-old German scientist whose show, “Body Worlds,” has attracted 20 million people worldwide over the past decade and has taken in over $200 million by displaying preserved, skinless human corpses with their well-defined muscles and sinewy tissues.
But now with millions of people flocking to see “Body Worlds” and similar exhibitions, a ghastly new underground mini-industry has emerged in China.
With little government oversight, an abundance of cheap medical school labor and easy access to cadavers and organs — which appear to come mostly from China and Europe — at least 10 other Chinese body factories have opened in the last few years. These companies are regularly filling exhibition orders, shipping preserved cadavers to Japan, South Korea and the United States.
It doesn’t take a genius to realize where potential human rights issues start popping up here. Dr. von Hagens explains that all of the copycat cadaver show pieces are sourced from China, where unscrupulous rivals are using “unclaimed bodies.” Shanghaiist won’t dwell much longer on that thought. The story’s subject matter is just so bizarre, and nothing we say here can possibly add to it.
Photo from digitalpretzel.
Plenty of “Body Worlds” images at Flickr.