This time, we were accompanied only by student son, and, as he is studying to be a nurse, it seemed like an opportunity that shouldn't be missed. It is a shame, in my opinion, that von Hagens' exhibitions are sensationalised so much, although the man himself seems to encourage this attitude, to some extent! He is a bit of a showman, but he has to pay his bills, like anyone else, I suppose! Unfortunately, though, some photographers seem to go out of their way, to capture the exhibits in the most unnatural light possible and I have been startled by some of the photographs I have seen, even though I have not been startled by any of the exhibits in situ. It's surprising the effect that a little colour enhancement and a dark background can have on a subject.
I've found that the 'bodies' on show appear as if they have been manufactured from plastic, once they have undergone the process of plastination. Anyone viewing, in the hope of seeing blood and gore, or of being frightened stupid, will be disappointed. The only thing I found slightly scary was the smoker's blackened lung! What a relief that I only smoked for a short while, in my misguided youth and never became addicted to it.
Perhaps you are already moving on to the next post, because you feel that the Body Worlds exhibitions are unethical, or perhaps you object for religious reasons. I feel I should point out, that the individuals appearing in this exhibition gave permission for their bodies to be used, in this way, for educational purposes, but, naturally, I can only speak for myself, when I say that I find them informative and interesting, without being humiliating, or disrespectful. For anyone studying anatomy, for any reason, a visit to one of the Body Worlds exhibitions would be invaluable. In my experience, they are not viewed by ghouls, or by youngsters looking for kicks, (as long as you leave our 2 out of the equation, when they went to the first exhibition, that is!) they are visited by people who are simply interested in understanding their own bodies, or other peoples.
The only part of this exhibition, which I found very sad, was the room where there are several foetuses on display, at various stages of development. I lost a baby myself, and had to go through the labour, when I was 6 months pregnant, even though I knew that the baby was dead, so this section stirred a few memories, for me. It would have been a simple matter to avoid this part of the exhibition, however, if I had found it too upsetting. Anyone thinking of visiting the exhibition, with young children, should also be made aware of the fact that all genitals are on display. Personally, I feel sure that many an innocent young woman could be saved from a fearful shock, on her wedding night, by a timely visit to a Body Worlds exhibition!
Speaking for myself, I don't find the whole body plastinates of much interest. I am much more fascinated by the body parts in glass cases, the healthy and diseased organs, the transparent body slices and the interesting facts accompanying most of the displays. The current exhibition focuses on health, wellbeing and the ageing process, so there is some interesting information and advice about following a healthy lifestyle, with the consequences of failing to do so being plain to see.
During this visit, I learned a lot, but 3 of the things that really caught my attention were:
- we begin to lose our hearing from the age of 18
- taking our size into consideration, we should only live for 25 years (eg a dormouse only lives a few months, whereas an elephant can live up to 80 years) and
- it is possible to die from constipation (!)
I am careful not to fall into vast expanses of water, and never climb to the top of high buildings, in case I fall off, but dying from constipation is a danger I had never even considered! Fortunately, I suffer from panic attacks if I am more than 6 feet away from a box of Bran Flakes or Weetabix, so it would be truly amazing if I ever died from constipation, but there you are - you've been warned!
Another thing I was interested to read about was, that the part of the brain controlling judgement and risk taking doesn't develop until adulthood. It reminded me of one of my mother's favourite sayings. 'You can't put an old head on young shoulders!' As the mother of 3 sons aged 25, 23 and 19, I feel that this particular saying should be engraved upon my heart.
At the end of the exhibition, there were leaflets available, which gave you the opportunity to donate your own body, after your death, to be used for educational purposes, in future exhibitions. I considered the idea, but rejected it, when I realised that, although I would not object to anyone examining my insides, after my death, I couldn't bear the thought of anyone seeing me without my clothes!