Dr Death offers his fans a slice of the action
Now that up to 30 million people have seen his controversial ‘Body Worlds’, Gunther von Hagens has opened an online store, writes DEREK SCALLYin Berlin
CAN YOU STILL call your living room a living room if you have a corpse in the corner? That’s a question worth considering before exploring the latest gimmick from Germany’s self-styled Dr Death, Gunther von Hagens.
Just days before Halloween, Germany’s most notorious pathologist has launched an online store, at plastination- products.com, selling his perfectly preserved human specimens to the public.
For €70,000 you can have your own “plastinated” human specimen in which all fluids have been forced out of the body and replaced with plastic polymers that retain the tissues’ original structure, shape and colour.
For those on a budget there’s a torso, from head to pelvis, for €21,000 or a torso cross section for €4,700. Bargain-hunters can pick up a head cross section for €830. True romantics should beat the rush for St Valentine’s Day and order a human heart now, for €4,165: natural or polymer coated.
The online store is not all human bodies, mind you. For that special lady in your life you can buy a handmade necklace consisting of a bull’s penis and slices of his testicles – a snip at €77, complete with “extension necklace and twist-off clasp”.
The equestrian-minded can have a similar necklace with horse testicles starting from €36; safari-lovers might favour giraffe-tail ear-rings and necklace for €107.
The store is the latest business expansion for Von Hagens, who says his Body Worldsroadshow has attracted 30 million people in 15 years on the road.
Besides the queues, each stop attracts protests at the presentation of dead humans doing everything from playing chess to having sex.
Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, Germany’s Catholic primate, has attacked the sale of bodies online as a degradation of the human body that shows no respect for the dead. “This isn’t about breakthroughs for science and research but body looting and spectacle under the guise of medical education,” he said, expressing concern that the online shop could make Germany the centre of a new trade in dead bodies.
Three years ago Von Hagens opened a plastination factory in the eastern German town of Guben. His staff of 200 put new bodies through the preservation process he developed in the 1970s, which reportedly takes up to 1,500 hours. He has a second production facility in China.
Von Hagens shrugs off controversy wherever he goes, insisting that all the human bodies he has preserved are of people who agreed to undergo the process.
His latest coup, according the Germany’s Bildtabloid, is to secure the postmortem rights to the body of the ailing Hollywood diva Zsa Zsa Gabor.
But in recent years he has been faced with regular reports that he has used bodies of prisoners from China and Kyrgyzstan, some of whom were reportedly executed.
The 65-year-old pathologist strenuously denies these allegations, but he admits he has had to dispose of some bodies sent to him that showed signs of unnatural death.
Von Hagens was born Gunter Liebchen in the eastern city of Kalisch, now Kalisz in Poland. He grew up in East Germany and was imprisoned after demonstrating against Soviet intervention against protesters in Prague in 1968. He was among the political prisoners “bought” free by Bonn and allowed to move to West Germany. After studying in Kiel and Heidelberg he went public with his Body Worldsshow in 1996.
Seven years later he courted controversy in London for performing a public autopsy, later televised, before a paying audience. The pathologist says his online shop will start shipping next month – in time for Christmas.