The University of Warwick is spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on body parts preserved by the controversial German professor Gunther von Hagens.
Medical students at the university will be given the opportunity to study more than 200 of von Hagens’ body parts, all perfectly preserved with the professor’s patented plastination technique.
Dr von Hagens’ method involves removing fat and water from the body part and impregnating it with a polymer – his laboratory in Guben, Germany, has a ready supply of donors who wish to be immortalised in plastic.
The University of Warwick has paid £400,000 for the haul of human parts after receiving a £1.1 million grant from the area’s Strategic Health Authority to develop the department as a centre of excellence in anatomical surgical study.
However, the Polish-born professor, who is rarely seen without his trademark fedora, even during dissection, has attracted controversy.
Six years ago he performed a live autopsy in the UK, the first since 1830, and after Channel 4 televised the event more than 100 complaints were registered with regulator Ofcom.
His popular Body Worlds exhibitions – in which plastinated cadavers, stripped of flesh and exposing muscle and sinew, are uncannily exhibited in natural human poses - have also provoked debate over whether his work is art, science or simply bad taste.
But Warwick Medical School’s chairman of clinical anatomy, Professor Peter Abrahams, said the specimens were essential for anatomy teaching.
He said: “Gunther von Hagens’ plastination technique is the most effective and his specimens are of the highest quality. Our students can use these specimens again and again to understand how the body works, they will be a unique and invaluable tool for the training of doctors.”
The university’s consignment of human remains arrives in London on October 24, where they will first go on display for the forthcoming Body Worlds exhibition at the O2 arena.