“The appropriate place for the corpse, according to the law, is the cemetery,” said Judge Louis-Marie Raingeard on Tuesday after he ordered the Paris “Our Body” exhibit shut down. Raingeard gave Encore Productions, the exhibition’s organizer, just 24 hours to close the show, which opened Feb. 12 at Paris’s Espace 12 Madeleine and was scheduled to run through May 10, and threatened to charge Encore a €20,000 ($25,930) fine for each day the exhibit stays open.
Although similar displays using Chinese cadavers, whose bodily fluids are replaced with plastic, have been shown around the world from New York to South Korea, the exhibit angered two French human rights groups, prompting them to file a lawsuit saying the show violates laws protecting the dignity of the human body. The groups asked for the exhibit to be shut down and requested that the company produce documents proving the bodies came from consenting individuals. They also complained that the bodies were not displayed behind protective glass and that they may have been part of a black market in cadavers of Chinese prisoners.
Two other companies — Premier Exhibitions in the United States and Gunther von Hagens Body Worlds in Germany — have organized similar exhibitions. Premier has been criticized most recently by an ABC News program, which questioned how the bodies had been obtained; the company had been accused of using the bodies of prisoners from Chinese labor camps. In January 2008, the California state assembly passed a bill forcing exhibitors to get consent from donors or donors’ families before they use their bodies in the show.
Pascal Bernardin, director of Encore Productions, said his organization’s exhibition teaches the public about the science of the human body. But the judge said the company had an obvious “commercial objective.”
Previous showings of “Our Body” in Lyon and Marseille attracted a combined 145,000 visitors. The Paris exhibition had sold 200,000 tickets by the start of April, Bernardin said.