Israel's Attorney General: 'Bodies' Exhibit Disrespects the Dead

The attorney general presented his opinion in response to a petition to the High Court against the exhibit for presenting the remains of executed Chinese prisoners without their consent.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein told the High Court of Justice on Sunday that exhibiting dead bodies in Israel without the prior consent of the dead offends the Jewish principle of "kavod ha-met," paying due respect to the deceased.

The opinion was presented in response to a petition by attorney David Schonberg against Weinstein, the chief of police, the deputy minister of health and the exhibition's Israeli producers and its producers abroad.

The exhibit, due to remain open to the public at Mitcham Hatachana in south Tel Aviv through August, features human bodies preserved through the process of polymer preservation, through which human tissue is permanently preserved using liquid silicone rubber. The exhibit has been displayed in cities worldwide.

Schonberg argues that the producers failed to present "documentation as to the conscious consent of the people to their bodies being used after their death in an exhibition for commercial purposes." It adds that the producers misled the public regarding the source of the bodies hiding the fact that the bodies on display were in fact those of executed Chinese prisoners who never gave their consent to have their remains sold and put on display.

Weinstein wrote that the using human corpses for commercial profit dishonored the dead. "Taking the body, preserving it, selling and exhibiting it without the consent of the dead, as if it were an object open to anyone's use was disrespectful to the deceased and to the autonomy of the living," he wrote.

Weinstein added that despite the fact that the bodies were collected and preserved abroad, exhibiting dead bodies without consent, was disrespectful of the dead." Weinstein suggested that the Tel Aviv Municipality would also be requested to reply to the petition, since the exhibition is held in the city.

When the petition was submitted last May, the exhibition's producers said that "it was obvious there would be people in Israel who would try to stop the exhibition from being shown in Israel for religious reason, and it was obvious that they would be the exact same people who tried to stop a similar exhibition three years ago. This specific exhibition is presented throughout the world in major cities, and permanently exhibited in New York and Las Vegas. The Israeli exhibition has received all necessary permits from all the relevant authorities, including the Health Ministry, the police, the Customs Authority and the Tel Aviv municipality."

A plastinated human bodies' exhibit
The ‘Bodies’ exhibition in Haifa earlier in 2012.