Novosibirsk doctors illegally trading in human bodies?

The Novosibirsk police have submitted to court a criminal case concerning 56 human bodies and 400 brain specimen sent to Germany in 2000, the regional prosecution's interrogator Yevgeny Gosteyev reported on Friday.

The bodies were sent to Germany in line with the agreement between a medical institution in Novosibirsk and the Institute of plastination in the German city of Heidelberg, he said. The cargo was allegedly meant for producing anatomic material to be used as a training aid for Novosibirsk medical students.

However, law-enforcement structures questioned the legitimacy of the agreement, believing Novosibirsk medical workers had violated the federal law "On Burial and Funeral Activities", which allows using human bodies for scientific purposes only with the consent of the relatives of the deceased. Also, it became known that the Heidelburg Institute of plastination was headed by Doctor Gunther von Hagens, known in Europe as an avant-gardist painter, who uses human bodies in his anatomic exhibitions.

During interrogation the accused medical workers said that the bodies sent to Germany had not been claimed (that is, the deceased did not have any relatives). Yet the investigation found relatives of 8 people who demand the bodies to be returned for burial.

Investigation has not yet found out where the bodies are at present. It is also unknown whether the accused received any compensation for their "services".

After the proceedings had been launched, the law-enforcement structures prevented another load of 32 bodies from being sent to Germany, Gosteyev said. The criminal case has been submitted to a district court in Novosibirsk. The date of the trial has not been set so far.

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