Copulating cadavers turn stomachs in Berlin

By AFP

June 18, 2010 Updated May 7, 2009 at 7:11 AM EDT

A new exhibition featuring preserved dead bodies having sex opened in Berlin on Thursday with critics saying a maverick German anatomist dubbed "Doctor Death" has gone too far this time.

The couple, part of Gunther von Hagens's exhibition "The Cycle of Life", is the "low point in his tastelessness", Michael Braun, culture expert from the conservative CDU party, told AFP.

Von Hagens said his copulating couples show the sexual act in "bracing clarity".

The exhibits, of four "consenting donors", are in a separate room accessible only to over-16s.

One couple, because of the process used, "is reminiscent of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), as well as Leonardo da Vinci's anatomical drawing, 'Coition of a Hemisected Man and Woman (1492)'," he said in a statement.

The exhibition "offers a deep understanding of the human body, the biology of reproduction, and the nature of sexuality".

The dead bodies are plasticised, a process invented by Von Hagens involving skinning bodies to display the naked muscles, nerves and tendons underneath, and preserving them with a synthetic resin.

Van Hagens is no stranger to controversy and his many critics accuse him of deliberately shocking people in order to gain publicity, rather than furthering science as he claims.

In 2002 he conducted Britain's first public autopsy in 170 years despite the risk of arrest.

Three years ago he opened a factory-cum-museum in eastern Germany manufacturing "plastinated" sections of cadavers to supply researchers and medical students and charging visitors to watch the process.

"I am firmly convinced that he just breaks taboos again and again in order to make money," Kai Wegner, another CDU lawmaker, told AFP. "It is not about medicine or scientific progress. It is marketing and money-making pure and simple."

It appears to work, with Von Hagens's touring "Body Worlds" exhibition drawing millions of visitors around the world.




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