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Ethical Issues in the Public Exhibitions of Human Cadavers in Korea

PARK JAE HYUN 1

1경희대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

In 2002, an exhibition of human cadavers entitled “Body Worlds” was staged in Korea. Since then a number of similar exhibitions have been held across the country, drawing a total of more than four million visitors. These exhibitions, which display plastinated human cadavers in various poses, have been widely regarded as having scientific and educational value, teaching people about human life and health. However, there has been little public debate or discussion of the ethical issues associated with the exhibition of human cadavers. This article explains that the ethical principles governing cadaver use for medical education are as follows: 1) there should be no viable alternative to human cadavers for this purpose; 2) there should be concrete and explicit benefits from the use of cadavers; 3) informed consent should be obtained; 4) the cadavers should be respected and not be used for commercial purposes; and 5) privacy and confidentiality should be maintained. However, as it is argued in this article, the public exhibitions of human cadavers mentioned above violate several of these ethical principles: there are alternatives to the use of human cadavers for the purposes of health education, no explicit and concrete benefits were gained by using these human cadavers, the commercial dimension of the exhibitions violates the principle of respect for the dead body, and it is doubtful that informed consent was obtained from the people whose bodies were on display in these exhibitions. Thus, this article concludes that the exhibitions of human cadavers in Korea were unethical.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.