Leading human rights lawyers call for immediate closure of ‘Real Bodies: The Exhibition’ amid concerns over use of human bodies without consent

July 12, 2018


Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) has called for the immediate closure of “Real Bodies – The Exhibition” currently showing at the Entertainment Quarter in Sydney until October 2018. The Exhibition features human corpses and human organs from unclaimed bodies in China.

ALHR, doctors and other civil society groups have expressed ethical, legal and human rights concerns about the provenance of the bodies and the issue of consent. Madeleine Bridgett, Co-Chair of ALHR’s Business and Human Rights Committee said, “The Exhibition’s organisers are yet to publicly disclose any specific evidence about the provenance of the bodies and whether consent has been given by the deceased for their bodies to be used in this way.”

The exhibition’s CEO, Tom Zaller, claims the bodies are from China and were legally donated, but has conceded there is no documentation regarding the provenance of the bodies or the individuals’ consent to donate their bodies to be used in this way. Ms Bridgett continued, “It is very concerning that organisers of the Exhibition have not answered questions about the origins of the bodies used in the Exhibition. The use of human organs and tissues without consent breaches international human rights laws on organ trafficking.”

“There remains grave concerns that some of the bodies in the Exhibition may be those of Chinese prisoners of conscience who have been executed without the right to a fair trial or even killed for their organs. Such extra-judicial executions breach fundamental human rights laws.”

The Anatomy Act 1977 (NSW) provides that consent must be given by the deceased person during their lifetime for their body to be used for the anatomical examination of their body. The NSW Health Policy Directive for the Conduct of Anatomical Examinations and Anatomy Licensing states that the meaning of anatomical examination includes displays. This legislation and policy directive aim to protect the rights of the deceased person over the use of their body.

Ms Bridgett said, “Similar exhibitions in France, Israel and the USA have been banned over concerns about the provenance and consent of the bodies for display. Australia should follow suit and close down the exhibition to ensure a person’s right to their body is upheld, and to further ensure that Australia is not associated with any possible breaches of fundamental international human rights laws.”

ALHR calls on the New South Wales Government to immediately close the exhibition until such time as the organisers can demonstrate the ethical and legal sourcing of each body.

Media Contact: please contact Matt Mitchell on 0431 980 365 or media@alhr.org.au

Image credit: http://tenderness.co/human-muscle-system-3d/