Autopsy To Be Performed On British TV
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PROFESSOR DEFIANT OVER TV AUTOPSY
By Maxine Frith and Laura Burkin
This Is London
Wednesday, November 20, 2002
A maverick German doctor is defying a storm of public protest by carrying
out Britain's first public dissection of a human body in 170 years tonight.
Professor Gunther von Hagens said he is determined to press ahead with the
autopsy in front of Channel4 television cameras and a paying audience of 200
people at an art gallery in the East End.
The Department of Health is demanding that the professor should be arrested
if he goes ahead with the dissection and Scotland Yard said today that a
senior police officer would be among the audience to see if the law is
Channel4 said it was undeterred by the controversy and would be going ahead
with the broadcast.
Professor von Hagens said carrying out the autopsy was important for
"educating people about their bodies and about death".
He said nothing was going to stop him performing an operation that was
regularly held in public in the 16th century, usually in front of medical
He vowed: "I have no fear that police may come and arrest me as I perform
the autopsy. I'm prepared for it, but also know that despite what the
Department of Health say, I'm not breaking the anatomy law.
"If they want to lock me up for it, then let them. I have a briefcase full
of books which will keep me company if they decide to throw me in jail. I
won't be on my own.
"This is important because people should have the chance to have an
understanding of what is involved in a process which is ordered on them or
their loved ones without consent. They televise operations so why not an
The professor has changed his plans to dissect the body of a 33-year-old
woman who suffered from epilepsy and will instead perform the autopsy on the
preserved body of a 72-year-old German man.
He said the man had given consent and so had the man's relatives who were
expected to be present at the autopsy at the Boiler House in Brick Lane,
But campaign groups including the charity Epilepsy Bereaved said it was
going ahead with a protest outside the gallery and will be asking people to
think twice before going in to see it.
Professor von Hagens caused a sensation with his controversial Body Worlds
exhibition of preserved human corpses which is taking place in Brick Lane.
Department of Health officials today claimed that Professor von Hagens did
not have a licence under the Anatomy Act of 1984.
Inspector of Anatomy Dr Jeremy Metters has written to the professor
threatening "criminal penalties" if the autopsy goes ahead.
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