Alesi Legislation To Regulate "body" Exhibits

James S. Alesi

February 27, 2008

Senator Jim Alesi (R- Perinton) today announced that he has introduced legislation (S.7000) which would amend the public health law, in relation to the commercial display of human remains.

Recently, a number of exhibits which display human remains have been touring the country. The exhibits display bodies that have been embalmed using a special process which permits the body to retain its shape and size; a process known as plastination. Although these exhibits are considered educational and interesting entertainment by many, questions have risen about the origin of the bodies on display. Some claim that the bodies were illegally obtained in China, noting that the Chinese government has been known to execute political prisoners routinely for organ harvesting. Exhibits in New York City and other parts of the country have generated an awareness that protocol must be developed to ascertain whether or not plastinized bodies were obtained properly.

"Dignity in death, as well as in life, is of paramount importance to a civilized society," said Senator Jim Alesi. "These new developments regarding plastinized bodies are deeply disturbing, especially in light of China's blatant disregard for safety in the areas of tainted food products, unsafe toys, and technology piracy. This latest development should serve as yet another warning to nations worldwide that respect for human dignity must be taken into account when we engage in business with China."

While article 43 of the Public Health Law governs anatomical gifts, nothing in the law specifically applies to the use of human remains for commercial display. Senator Alesi's bill would ensure that public health and human rights are protected by requiring that anyone wishing to exhibit human remains for commercial purposes, such as a museum or art exhibit, apply for a permit through the New York State Department of Health which would require the applicant to show a valid authorization for possession and display of each body.

By instituting Senator Alesi's legislation, New York State will ensure that each body displayed for commercial purposes is in fact legally obtained, ending speculation that many of the bodies plastinized for these exhibits are in fact executed political prisoners. Furthermore, the bill would ensure that regulations involving anatomical gifts have been followed.

Senator Alesi has been on the forefront of legislation aimed at regulating tissue and organ harvesting. In 2006, his bill to increase the penalties related to unlawful tissue harvesting activities such as body stealing, the unlawful dissection of a human being, the unlawful opening of grave, and the sale and purchases of human organs was signed into law.

Senator Alesi is also currently sponsoring legislation (S.270) which would establish a statewide database of all donation tissue or non-transplant organs, as well as a bill (S.295) which ensures the proper harvesting of cadaveric human tissue by requiring tissue or non-transplant organs to be procured only in a hospital, morgue or other facility licensed for the purposes of tissue or organ procurement.