Cadaver Exhibition Draws Crowds, Controversy in Florida

August 29, 2005

Photo Gallery: "Bodies" Cadaver Exhibition >>

An exhibition starring real, skinned human corpses arranged in poses—a soccer player in mid-kick, for example—is drawing record- breaking crowds and controversy to a Florida museum.

Fetuses and a cigarette smoker's tarred lungs are among the 20 corpses and 260 body parts on display.

"Bodies: The Exhibition" opened August 18 at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa. The bodies in question are unclaimed or unidentified individuals from China. As such, neither the deceased nor their families consented to the use of the corpses in the exhibit.

On August 17, three days before the exhibit was scheduled to open, Florida's Anatomical Board voted four to two against allowing the exhibition to open.

The board regulates the transportation of human corpses and body parts into and out of the state for medical education and for research purposes. It is not clear, however, whether their authority extends to museum exhibitions.

"The bottom-line issue is informed consent. Where is the informed consent?" said Lynn Romrell, chair of the Anatomical Board and an associate dean at the University of Florida's College of Medicine in Gainesville. Romrell voted against the exhibition.

The Museum of Science and Industry opened "Bodies" two days early, on August 18, the day after the board's vote. The museum and Atlanta, Georgia-based Premier Exhibitions, the show's promoter, cited faster-than-expected exhibit construction and high advance ticket sales as reasons for the early opening.

"We did not want the people of Tampa to be denied this unique opportunity," Roy Glover, the chief medical advisor and spokesperson for the exhibition, wrote in an e-mail to National Geographic News.

The Anatomy Board announced on the show's opening day that they would not to pursue legal action against the museum. Instead, the board is seeking clarification of their authority from the Florida Legislature.

"Bodies: The Exhibition" is slated to run through February 26, 2006, in Tampa. More than 12,000 attended the show in its first four days, breaking a museum record set in 2003 by a Titanic exhibition. The first week as a whole saw 21,000-plus visitors. More than a quarter of a million are expected in the months ahead.

No Consent

Continued on Next Page >>


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