Berlin private medical school accused of allowing illegal human dissections

Health officials also allege that Prometheus Academy’s head isn’t a real doctor

A private medical school in Berlin is under investigation amid claims that its students illegally dissected bodies of unclear provenance.

For €4,000 the Prometheus Academy offers students a four-month course to prepare them for medical school entrance exams. But when Berlin health authorities visited they said they found bodies and body parts without any documentation of their origins. "There were no consent agreements for body donations," said Patrick Larscheid, a health officer in Berlin's Reinickendorf neighbourhood.

The bodies were seized to determine their origin and cause of death. The academy has been closed pending investigation of a series of allegations: storing bodies without a licence; allowing laypeople to perform dissections; and breaching German burial law.

On its website the academy, which has locations in Berlin, Munich and Cologne, shows videos of medical-school hopefuls removing gall bladders and slicing other body parts.


“When you see the enthusiasm of the students for the specimens, that’s what’s important for their studies,” said one staff member. Another said: “I think it’s interesting in the course that they learn how to work practically.”

“Honorary doctorate”

Berlin health officials insist such practical dissections are illegal for nonmedical professionals and accuse the academy founder, Markus Wrase, of claiming fraudulently that he is a doctor, when he has only an honorary title awarded by a university in Romania.

The Prometheus Academy said the founder was a trained paramedic. “He is not a doctor, never claimed this or created this impression,” it said.

On the academy’s website Wrase uses the title “Dr” alongside a text saying “we are health professionals” anxious to assist “future colleagues” in their professional training. Asked about a car on the campus that has blue lights and “emergency doctor” on the outside, the academy said this was to help train students.

The academy insisted that all documentation had been furnished for the bodies and that, as a private institute, it was legally entitled to offer dissection and practical anatomy courses for future medical professionals.

A former staff member cast doubt on the academy’s claims, however, saying the body parts had come from the United States and Poland and were brought into the country without customs declarations.

"Mr Wrase brought one delivery into the academy personally in a roller suitcase," the man, who asked not to be identified, told Berlin's RBB television. "There were arms, legs, a liver, kidney and a head with shoulder area."

At one point body parts were stored in a regular domestic freezer, he said. “The freezer was then wiped out and used to store cream puffs, later offered to course participants.”

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin