Friday, May 05, 2006

Te Radar: Frozen, pickled, eaten - it's your body

Once I have no more use for the body I inhabit I would be more than willing, after my demise, to have it donated to cannibals, or necrophiliacs, but feel constrained from doing so for fear that such an action would unduly upset my mother.

I mention this in relation to the rather startling revelation about the dire lack of organ donors in this country, with only 29 people out of the 27,000 who had the misfortune not to see last year out donating their organs.

Rationally, the human body should be treated like a used car. When we are done with it we place it on blocks and strip it for parts.

There are some constraints to this, one being that given my lifestyle, I suspect that those in need of organs probably wouldn't want mine. Even I am not entirely happy with how they are performing.

Organ donation does raise fascinating ethical issues. Once a person has become a donor, can they then specify who does and does not get their organs? In the US some have taken their cases to court to try to enforce their wish not to have their organs donated to people they find "undesirable".

I simply wonder if we can specify that we only want to live on in the body of an attractive member of the opposite sex?

New and novel ways of disposing of the husks of the dead will soon become a pressing concern, as their numbers increase and cemetery space becomes limited.

While some prefer to be frozen, and others crushed into diamonds, I would be happy to simply be pickled and placed in a jar.

An exhibition that is being proposed to tour here features a delightfully modern twist on this theme, and unsurprisingly, has already aroused controversy.

The exhibition features dissected corpses preserved by a process of plastination, whereby the water and fat in the bodies is replaced by silicon.

Some of this hullabaloo derives from those who simply find the concept icky, as it shows in exquisite detail the mechanism of the human form.

Much of the controversy however has not been about the use of the bodies, but where they came from. With the exhibition deriving from China there was a concern that some of the bodies were those of executed political prisoners.

This was denied by Chinese authorities.

However, one previous touring version of a similar show had several bodies returned by concerned curators after it was discovered that there were what appeared to be bullet holes in the backs of the skulls.

One gets the feeling this wasn't caused by budget constraints in Chinese euthanasia programmes.

China has long been plagued by claims that prisoners have been harvested for organs.

I suspect that not only could lives in this country be saved by utilising the organs of our more degenerate prisoners, but the simple threat posed to potential wrongdoers of being human spare parts may deter the committing of other crime.

This way, everybody wins.

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