BERLIN - Gunther von Hagens, a German anatomist famous for his controversial Body World exhibition displaying plastinated bodies, is now selling human and animal body parts — even as jewelry — online.
The move has provoked strong condemnation from German churches which accuse him of degrading human dignity.
A whole body from www.plastination-products.com costs about 70,000 euros ($97,400), torsos start at 55,644 euros and heads come in at around 22,000 euros each — excluding postage and packaging.
For those on a tighter budget, transparent body slices are available from 115 euros each.
But these real body parts — which have undergone plastination, a process which replaces water and fat with plastic for preservation purposes — are not available to everyone.
Only "qualified users" who can provide written proof that they intend to use the parts for research, teaching or medical purposes can place an order.
Interested parties who do not fall into this category can buy reproductions of the real body parts — so-called "Anatomy Glass," which the shop's website describes as "high resolution acrylic glass prints of the original body slices."
Jewelry crafted from animal corpses, including necklaces made from horse slices, wristbands made from giraffe tails and earrings made from bull penises, is also available to the general public.
The online shop has outraged leading members of Germany's religious community. In a joint statement, Protestant regional bishop Ulrich Fischer and Catholic archbishop Robert Zollitsch condemned the online body shop, which they said was "breaking a taboo."
Zollitsch said "human dignity is sacrosanct — even after death — so the human body shouldn't be degraded and made into an object of spectacle, or a stock of spare parts."
They said that "Germany must not be allowed to become a hub of the corpse trade."
Von Hagens, 65, is no stranger to controversy. A public autopsy he performed in front of a live audience in 2002 was televised and caused a public outrage, as did his 2004 tour through Germany with his Body Worlds exhibitions.
(Editing by Steve Addison. Reporting by Michelle Martin)