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Ethical Review

Third Party Audits

of the Institute for Plastination’s Body Donation Program

To address any questions on ethical issues related to the display of human remains in the BODY WORLDS exhibitions several procedures and reviews have been set in place.

All body donor deaths are subject to an annual assessment of facts and are reported to the municipal authorities of the city of Heidelberg, Germany. This process includes verifying that the information on all death certificates from the year in question corresponds to the associated consent forms. The process is also notarized. All deaths resulting in a body being delivered to the Institute of Plastination are thus documented and officially recorded.

The Institute of Plastination’s Body Donation Program has been independently audited several times in the past, in conjunction with the BODY WORLDS exhibitions. Numerous museums, in particular those located in the United States, consulted independent ethics committees before hosting an exhibition. They asked the ethics committees to investigate both the ethical justification of the exhibitions in general and its suitability for the specific museum. The origin of the plastinated specimens has usually been a decisive factor in these investigations, and either ethicists or legal experts have been sent to Heidelberg to review documents associated with the Body Donation Program at our offices. Without fail, all auditors and reviewers concluded that the Institute of Plastination’s Body Donation Program meets all ethical standards and, in some ways, even exceed the standards followed by most anatomical institutes. All ethics committees also found the exhibitions to be justifiable and suitable for the museums in question.

The ethical review document commissioned by the California Science Center in Los Angeles is available with the center’s friendly permission.

Before the North American premiere of BODY WORLDS, in 2004 an independent ethics review was conducted by a distinguished committee of theologians, ethicists, academics and medical luminaries. The Ethics Review of the origins of bodies in BODY WORLDS and ethical nature of the exhibition – conducted by the California Science Center, Los Angeles – was updated in 2017. Both documents are available for download here:

Ethical Review Update by the California Science Center 2016/2017
Ethic Report by the California Science Center 2004/2005

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