Forget about donating your body to science after you die. Donate your body to art.Thomas Peipert / AP file
A full-body “plastinate” is displayed at Gunther von Hagens’ “Body Worlds” exhibit in Dallas. The show, which puts real human specimens on display, has been fiercely criticized. Von Hagens, depicted in the background, insists he’s helping viewers understand how their own bodies work.
Well, medical art, that is. Here’s how you do it:
more than 7,000 people … have agreed to donate their bodies for plastination, a process in which body fluids are replaced by liquid plastic. The plastic hardens, leaving tissues intact and allowing bodies to be displayed in their natural color and without formaldehyde.The process was made popular by Gunther von Hagens’ “Body Worlds,” a controversial anatomy exhibit that puts real human specimens on show.
So 7000 plus people have already decided to do this. About half of them will end up in museum exhibitions, and the rest will end up in medical schools. I don’t know how much of a say they have in how they’re displayed, but the chances of them being boringly hanging around are slim:
Most are flayed and dissected, revealing their organs. Others are kept intact and displayed in dramatic action poses, such as a basketball player driving to the hoop or a runner in full stride.
Still, the Institute for Plasticination, which deals with the process, will give people some input. It works a bit like this:
When Owens and Baxter die, their bodies will be sent, at their own expense, to an embalming facility in Upland, Calif. From there, they will go to the Institute for Plastination, which has laboratories in Guben and Heidelberg, Germany, as well as in Dalian, China.“We definitely request donors for input on how they would like to be plastinated,” Gomez said, though the institute can’t guarantee how or where the body will be displayed.
Gomez estimates about half of the donors are used in exhibitions and half are sent to medical facilities to be used in teaching. Some become full-body specimens, a process that takes up to a year to complete at a cost of between $40,000 and $60,000.
“Each specimen would be used in a way that would best represent their own human anatomy,” she said. “Really it just depends on what’s needed at that time.”