Bodyworlds and the ethics of using human remains: A preliminary discussion

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Accepting the claim that the living have some moral duties with regard to dead bodies, this paper explores those duties and how they bear on the popular travelling exhibition Bodyworlds. I argue that the concept of informed consent presupposes substantial duties to the dead, namely duties that reckon with the meaning of the act in question. An attitude of respect and not regarding human remains as mere raw material are non-alienable substantial duties. I found the ethos of Bodyworlds premature but full of promises such as public attitudes to organ donations. At the practical level I conclude that Bodyworlds should use only willed donations or unclaimed bodies for which dignified funerals are not available. In the case of live donations, Bodyworlds has a duty to participate in the medical care of needy donors. However, secrecy with regard to the sources of cadavers seems to be the most troublesome aspect of Bodyworlds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-247
Number of pages15
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2006


  • Anatomy
  • Art and medicine
  • Bodyworlds (Kropperwelten)
  • Ethics
  • Human remains
  • Posthumous interests and rights


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