Furore at TV show of corpse decaying

12th November 2004 at 00:00
Science teachers have condemned Channel 4's decision to televise the decomposition of a human body and questioned its educational value.

Channel 4 is looking for donors to take part in a documentary, provisionally entitled Dust to Dust, which will show a human body as it decomposes after death. The project aims to further knowledge of the processes that take place after death. At the moment, all decomposition tests are carried out using pigs.

A spokesman for Channel 4 said: "We'll be working with the Science Museum, discussing implications. It could teach us a huge amount."

Paul Woodward, head of science at Humphry Davy comprehensive, in Cornwall, said: "It's sensationalism. It's appealing to people's morbid interest, like looking at a road crash."

Peter Lloyd, head of biology at Alsager school, Cheshire, said: "If it were a dog or a cat or a hamster, I could see it might have value. But I fail to see how this could be categorised as interesting or scientific."

But Sarah Hill, biology teacher at Broadway school, Birmingham, said: "I can see the reasoning for it: you want to see how different parts of the body decay. It would be useful in showing the carbon cycle. But I don't see the point of televising it. Many of the children I teach have lost parents and grandparents, or have elderly fathers. The programme would disturb and frighten them."

Sheila Whittaker, lab technician at St Michael's comprehensive, in Barnsley, said: "They are just using people as if they are a lump of meat.

It might be useful if a pupil wanted a career as a pathologist, but how many people want to be pathologists?"

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