Ho Chi Minh City on Friday suspended an exhibition that raised controvery over its display of real human biological specimens, including various organs and fetuses, which it claimed were legally donated.
The exhibition’s organizer, event management firm MegaVina, used plastinated parts of real human bodies for presentation, when in the letter of request for permission, they’d only asked to use plastic samples of human body parts, said the HCMC Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
MegaVina also did not conduct its exhibition according to the date it initially requested and was granted permission for, from November 1 last year to September 1 this year, the department said. The current exhibition was started on June 21 and scheduled until December 21 this year.
The department said MegaVina had been “disnonest.” The department therefore ordered suspension of the exhibition starting Saturday, and required the event organizer to provide legal documents to specify the origin and description of the specimens it claimed were brought from Korea.
The “Mystery of Human Body” exhibition had evoked different reactions from the public, with some saying it was educational and informative, and some saying it was not okay to show real human body parts in public.
The specimens don’t look as frightening as seen on the internet over the last few days, Vi Kien Thanh, chairman of Vietnam’s Association of Photography and Exhibition, told VnEpxress after attending the exhibition himself.
“But we don’t know the story of the donors, whether or not they consented for their bodies (and body parts) to be exhibited,” he said, adding that the presentation could be deemed insensitive in the context of the respect in which the dead are held in Vietnamese culture.
MegaVina had previously said that the specimens were from organ donations and legally obtained. It had declined to provide more information.
“In cases of voluntary organ donations, there are confidentiality clauses which prevent the donors’ information, such as their identity, nationality or cause of death, from being leaked out,” said a MegaVina representative.
“The fetus specimens were all donated to science, with the consent of their parents,” the representative said.
Plastination is a technique or process used in anatomy to preserve bodies or body parts, first developed by German anatomist Gunther von Hagens in 1977. The method has been the theme of a number of exhibitions around the world, and there has been almost always controversy.
The Mystery of Human Body was the first of its kind in Ho Chi Minh City, attracting over 6,000 people who payed VND200,000 ($9) each.
VnExpress asked its Vietnamese readers about the event and 63 percent of over 5,500 respondents thought that the exhibition was “beneficial and scientific,” while 37 percent called it “gruesome and distasteful.”