'Body: The Exhibition' causes controversy in Slovakia

Topical issue

'Body: The Exhibition' causes controversy in Slovakia

09. 08. 2017 14:06

The controversial presentation 'Body: The Exhibition' is to open its doors in Slovakia on Thursday, August 10. Its main focus is to display dead and dissected bodies. However, the announcement has caused controversy due to questions over ethics and legality, with the Slovak Medical Chamber and the Slovak Medical University's Institute of Health Ethics arguing that the exhibition violates Slovak law.

"There are many reasons for the unlawfulness of the exhibition," said Ondrej Škodler, a legal advisor from the Slovak Medical Chamber. Specifically, the experts are concerned with legislation surrounding the treatment of dead bodies and laws which apply to funeral services. Škodler sees the event as a purely commercial activity, disagreeing with any advertised educational or scientific value behind the exhibition. The Episcopal Conference of Slovakia has also denounced the exhibition, calling it "a great dishonour to dead human bodies".

Organisers behind the exhibition have voiced their disappointment over the controversy and opposition to the show. "It is a pity that some doctors are against our exhibition and compare it to some kind of morbid theatre. It reminds me of the reactions to the first public autopsy in 1600," stated Květa Havelková, spokesperson for the firm behind the exhibition. The organisers state that they are focusing on the educational and scientific value of their exhibits, with a doctor on hand to explain them to groups.

However, there is also controversy regarding the origin of the bodies on display. Concerns have been raised that some of them may have come from Chinese political prisoners. Chinese citizen, Huang Wanqing, filed a lawsuit against the company behind the show. He claims that one of the exhibits may include the body of his lost brother who was prosecuted in China. Company spokesperson Havelková denounced such accusations, stating, "We are certain the bodies do not come from political prisoners."

In 2012, a similar show was approved by Slovak authorities as the exhibits did not violate laws applying to funeral services, with such laws ensuring that human remains are treated with dignity and without being a public health risk. The Chief Public Health Officer of the Slovak Republic concluded at the time that the exhibition did not pose such threats.

Adam Kollár, Photo: AP/TASR

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