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Plastinated bodies enter the classroom

Once, they robbed graves. Later, they were taught to dissect frogs. But today, would-be medical students are encouraged to look at plastinated body parts.

Warwick University has launched a series of educational films on its website, aimed at A-level pupils considering a career in medicine.

The films, available on the university's website, offer an overview of different parts of the plastinated body. Warwick is the first British university to have purchased plastinated body parts from Gunther von Hagens, the German doctor who pioneered the technique.

The creator of the Body Worlds exhibition discovered that it was possible to preserve and display dead bodies by removing all bodily fluids and soluble fat, and replacing them with plastic.

Peter Clenshaw, director of the Body Worlds exhibition, said: "The plastination process allows you to see how the body works. From the heart to the lungs, every specimen is on show. It allows people to see the whole body dissected in a three-dimensional way."

This week, the organisers of the exhibition, at London's O2 centre, set up a private viewing for teachers to persuade them of the pedagogical value of plastic corpses.

Teachers were shown an exhibit of bodies illustrating disease and decay, which organisers suggest could enhance science, PE and PSHE lessons for secondary pupils.

John Lawrence, of the Association for Science Education, agrees the models have pedagogical value.

"In the same way that teachers have used models of human eyes or rats in formalin, it adds something," he said. "But obviously, if someone doesn't want to engage with that, you have to say, 'Fine.'"


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