Friday, January 21, 2005

Cutting-edge TV?

Coming up on Channel 4 next week is a controversial 4-part series called Anatomy for Beginners. Fronted by the rather odious showman, Gunther von Hagens of Bodyworlds fame, it consists of a series of human dissections, starting with the flaying of a fresh cadaver. Colin Blakemore speaking on Front Row pronounced it gruesome but fascinating and informative. The show includes illustrations drawn on live, naked models -- somewhat gratuitously according to Blakemore. The show runs Monday 24 January to Thursday on Channel 4, 23.05. Is it a useful contribution to the demystification of death, or is it tasteless and unethical? Answers on a posting please.

4 comments:

yael said...

I remember finding the exhibition extremely disturbing, not so much for ethical reasons but for the insistence on the part of the curator to present it as educational, while I sensed many other undercurrents running through it. Wonder what the series going to be like, but from it's pitch it does look similar.

aj said...

i saw the original bodyworld exhibition and noted the show this evening with some interest, as at the time i found it quite thought provoking.
i thought the exhibition was a novel and exciting way for laypeople to get an inside look at their own bodies, something that we as medical students often take for granted. i went three times, not intentionally, and always noticed something i hadnt spotted before. i expected to dislike some of the poses due to the hype, but found many of them did emphasise certain parts of the anatomy extremely well, eg the basketbal player, and the swimmer. there were two things i didnt like. the first was the exhibit wearing a hat - i didnt see any good reason for it and thought it looked daft, the accompanying card mentioned it added 'a playful aspect' or some other nonsense. i thought it distracted from the beautiful dissection and the sense of sacrifice that went along with the piece. the second item i found distasteful was the memorial to those that had donated their bodies. something other than a dissection would have been apt and fitting, rather than yet another display, this time kneeling and clutching a heart proffered like some bizarre religious offering, possibly to the frankly dark character, gunther von hagens. i found the dissections of the pregnant lady and fetuses bordering on the limits of good taste, but cannot deny i found them interesting to see. people with a more forthright moral standing than i might disagree, as it brings into question the whole argument of fetal rights.

what one must not fail to applaud is the precise dissection, the genius of the preservation and the educational potential, not to mention the lack of formaldehyde eye stinging so often encountered in the DR.

perhaps we need the shock factor of such an exhibition to stir an apathetic nation to get up and visit a show, in the hope they will learn and find it interesting.

Anonymous said...

Any education of lay people in matters medical is a good thing. While the original "live autopsy" shown on television a while ago was pretty poor in content and technique and was apparently lacking in some ethical quarters (e.g. consent), it was an important move into controversial territory and gave many people their first experience of watching someone being cut open.

I suspect nothing new will emerge from this series, that it will be another bit of showmanry, short on interesting facts for lay people. It will probably concentrate on gruesome, graphic images, rather than exposing the beauty of the workings of the human body, which is what a show of this kind should set out to do.

The DR experience at Imperial was so good I think our own Professor of Anatomy should set up a rival show.

anjali said...

like AJ i went to the original exhibition too back in my 1st or 2nd year of med school.

By then in anatomy we had already been exposed to cadavers and body specimens so we were not expecting to be shocked. in fact we used some specimens and their labelled parts for Anatomy revision!

what sticks in my memory is the pregnant lady and the foetuses. i wondered at the time whether consent had been given. particularly with the older foetuses to whom the law gives the same rights as the mother except autonomy by definition cannot be given to the foetus.
Though i was intrigued i was a little disturbed too and those images are still held in my mind today.