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Bill would restrict display of human bodies, parts


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POSTED: Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Human bodies don't belong on display in a mall, according to a measure before Hawaii lawmakers.

The bill aims to prevent public viewings of human cadavers and body parts, such as those shown in “;Bodies ... the Exhibition,”; from coming to Hawaii again.

“;The suspicion is that these are the dead bodies of Chinese prisoners. That's my grave, grave concern,”; said Hong Jiang, a University of Hawaii geography professor, in testimony before lawmakers. “;I don't think their loved ones would want to sell the dead bodies of their relatives and friends.”;

The proposal, which was approved by the House Health Committee yesterday, would require such exhibitions to prove that the deceased knowingly consented to the display. Otherwise, the show's promoters would be denied a permit to do business in the islands.

The Atlanta-based company that owns the enterprise, Premier Exhibitions, didn't return a phone message or e-mail seeking comment yesterday.

The legislation arose after residents objected to “;Bodies ... The Exhibition,”; which was on display until Jan. 18 at Ala Moana Center, Hawaii's largest shopping mall, said Rep. Marcus Oshiro (D, Wahiawa-Poamoho).

“;Both culture and religious reasons require that we treat a person's physical remains with great respect and care. It's fundamental. It's a person's body,”; said Oshiro, who introduced the bill.

Before the exhibit arrived in Hawaii last summer, the company gave assurances that the remains didn't belong to executed Chinese prisoners, and that medical examiners made sure there was no evidence of bodily injury or trauma.

But Jiang argued that the company couldn't verify the source of the bodies, and she's concerned that they belonged to oppressed Falun Gong practitioners.

The bill would ban exhibits showing human bodies without a permit except for cadavers more than 80 years old, consisting solely of teeth or hair, involved in funeral or religious ceremonies, or those in the possession of a museum.