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Exhibit of bodies at Galleria will include disclosure that source of bodies in China is unknown

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 13, 2010 - Attorney General Chris Koster has just announced that an agreement has been reached with Premier Exhibitions, Inc., sponsor of "Bodies … The Exhibition," which he called "a cadaver exhibit" and which is slated to open in October at the St. Louis Galleria.

As part of the agreement, Premier will post a detailed disclosure with the exhibit that acknowledges that it's unclear where the bodies -- encased in plastic, with the skin removed -- were acquired in China, and that some may be deceased Chinese prisoners.

Koster's efforts were lauded by U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Town and Country, although the congressman has objected to the exhibit because of the possible use of prisoners' bodies. "We appreciate what the attorney general has done to educate Missourians about the dubious origins of these remains," said Akin spokesman Steve Taylor.

Koster had conducted the probe into the exhibit at Akin's request. The attorney general said in a statement that "Premier, based in Atlanta, admits obtaining the bodies from China but is unable to provide conclusive proof of the bodies’ origins."

"We asked Premier to make more robust disclosures at the site of the exhibit and in its advertising, and they voluntarily agreed to do so," Koster said. "I appreciate Congressman Akin bringing his concerns to our attention, and I thank Premier for agreeing to the disclosure language, which will be used in the Galleria exhibit and advertisements for the exhibits."

The disclosures are to appear in all capital letters and bold type. The disclosure on the company website and at the exhibition premises will read:

"Premier cannot independently verify the complete provenance of the human remains in this exhibition. They were obtained from a plastination facility in China, which received them from medical and research universities in China. These universities received the remains from medical examiner authorities in the Chinese Bureau of Police. The specimens are unclaimed by next of kin and there is no written documentation that any of the persons consented to the plastination and/or exhibition of their bodies."

A shorter disclosure -- "to be used in print advertising, web advertising by third parties, outdoor advertising, and television advertising," says Koster -- will read: "Premier cannot independently verify the provenance of the human remains in this exhibit."

Meanwhile, Akin plans to continue pressing ahead with his bill that would outlaw the display or importation into the United States of plastinated remains from China.

The congressman said today that he welcomed Koster's actions to require signs disclosing the questionable origins of the bodies in Premier's exhibit. "Missouri's Attorney General has rendered a valuable service to the public," Akin said, "by highlighting the lack of consent by the deceased to have their bodies plastinated or displayed."

"We should be working to prevent political oppression in China, not rewarding it financially," concluded Akin.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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