From Los Angeles, June 5, 2008
Dr. Gunther von Hagens
Anatomist and Inventor of Plastination
Dr. Gunther von Hagens leisurely discussing Plastination with Sophie Gayot
Sophie Gayot: Why has Body Worlds sparked such controversy?
Gunther von Hagens: Each country is different depending on their religious beliefs and customs. For example, there are no problems in Switzerland whereas, in Germany, due in part to World War II, there is a lot of heated discussion. Depending on the country, the media and visitors also have different reactions.
SG: What is the primary purpose of the exhibits?
GH: The goal is to educate people about the body and promote healthy living. Visitors come here to learn about true life and discover how things are put together. You can see the difference between clean lungs and the lungs of a smoker, a clean liver and one of someone who drank. For children, the exhibit is especially important and they are fascinated to learn about their bodies.
SG: What is the highlight of your most recent exhibit, “Body Worlds 3 & The Story of the Heart”?
GH: It would be the giraffe and ostrich specimens in the same room. The giraffe took three years to complete---that’s ten times longer than the amount of time it takes to prepare a human body. We needed ten people just to move the giraffe since its final weight, like all of our specimens after Plastination, was equal to its original.
SG: How does your whole operation run?
GH: We have five laboratories in four different countries with a total of 340 employees. Each laboratory is categorized. For example, our laboratory in China focuses on animal specimens.
SG: Where do you acquire the bodies used for the Body Worlds exhibits?
GH: The anatomical specimens are donated. Currently we have 9,000 people who have signed up. You can donate your body and you don’t need to be on any special diets, just lead a normal life.
SG: What are you working on currently?
GH: We are constantly improving the process of Plastination in order to preserve specimens more efficiently. The current exhibit features 200 pieces.