See Dead People

When a local news issue has ethical and religious undertones, I feel obligated to chime in. There's a new exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center called Bodies. It's a display of human cadavers and organs from unclaimed bodies in China. It opens today and will make a seven month run here.

It's created a little stir here locally, as the Archbishop forbade Catholic schools to use it for field trips and a few people even protested the exhibit's arrival. For Archbishop Pilarczyk, it's an issue of human dignity, although he didn't demand that Catholics avoid it altogether. For others, it's about human rights, as exhibitors aren't sure whether or not the bodies were Chinese political prisoners, as the nation is notorious for violating human rights issues.

So how do people of faith deal with this exhibit?

First, we need to recognize that this isn't a Biblical issue; there is nothing explicitly "un-Christian" going on here. So now we have to approach it as a purely ethical decision that needs to be explored.

I will respectfully disagree with the Archbishop that this is an issue of human dignity. We live in the most sophisticated societies in world history. I know people my age and older who have never actually seen a dead body. I'm not sure that would have been possible in societies until the last century. And if we are truly concerned about issues of human dignity, I'd suggest that atrocities taking place in third world countries around the world are much more disturbing than this science exhibit. So I'm not buying this as a reason.

I would be more bothered with the possible Chinese human rights violations. I wonder if the Chinese government was able to significantly profit as a result of this exhibit. I'm not sure I want to take their word that these people just "happened to die." But that being said, why couldn't a similar bodies exhibit be created out of American cadavers? I would suspect that a lot of people would volunteer to let their innards tour the country after they die. I do think there's something to knowing the legitimacy of the bodies in the exhibit.

That said, I can't argue that there's an ethical issue present here. So if you want to, go see it. I here that it's fascinating. Not quite sure I'll go, however, because I'm a cheap skate and can see similar stuff on the Discovery Channel.