by Matt Rosenberg July 14th, 2010
This morning in my regular weekly segment on KOMO 1000 featuring the work of our Public Data Ferret project, I discussed with “Nine2Noon” co-anchors Brian Calvert and Nancy Barrick the new bill introduced today in a Seattle City Council Committee to regulate the display of human remains. Here the original Ferret write-up, and here’s today’s audio segment. The transcript follows.
Brian Calvert: “Remember The ‘Bodies’ exhibit? It’s come to Seattle twice, but a new law could prevent its return. Matt Rosenberg of communityforums.org joins us – that’s where you can use their feature The Public Data Ferret. And Matt, today the Ferret found a meeting note; today the City Council will talk about banning the ‘Bodies’ exhibit unless it conforms to some new rules. What exactly is the Council looking for here?”
Matt Rosenberg: “Well, we came across the actual bill online at the committee’s Web site, and they would like to make sure, basically, there is permission granted in advance by the deceased before they die and are displayed in a commercial exhibit like “Bodies,” or from their next of kin.”
Brian Calvert: “That’s part of the controversy with the exhibit because as the exhibit has made its rounds we’ve also found out many of these bodies may have belonged to prisoners in China, right, and they may not be being used (with) permission?”
Matt Rosenberg: “Well exactly right, and ‘Bodies’ was hailed as educational and innovative and it certainly was, but there was a lot of controversy because nothing was known, not only about whether permission had been granted by the individuals, but really, how they died or what they’d been jailed for – and these concerns stemmed from ongoing human rights troubles in China, where despite great economic and social progress, there’s still been documented reports in recent years of politically motivated detentions and beatings, forced abortions, property confiscation and Internet censorship.”
Nancy Barrick: “Yeah. Something not everyone knew about the exhibit. And if we pass this law, we’ll be following, what, in the tracks of San Francisco?”
Matt Rosenberg: “Well that’s right. They passed a measure like this in the year 2005. And City Council member Nick Licata is the driver of this legislation, and his Housing, Health, Human Services and Culture Committee is going to have their first discussion of the bill today, they might even vote on it. And if it clears committee, it goes to the full council, and could become law. But, you know, this about basic human dignity, I think. It’s great to see how muscles really work. Or what a diseased organ looks like. And this so-called ‘plastination’ process that they used in ‘Bodies’ is definitely a breakthrough, but the permission issue is big. And then, Premier Exhibitions, Brian and Nancy, is a publicly-traded company on Wall Street with a market capitalization of $54 million and they’re doing this in 10 (North American) cities right now. This is very much a money-making enterprise, so, all the more reason for it to be on the level.”
Brian Calvert: “Interesting stuff. Matt Rosenberg, thanks for your time this morning, Matt’s with communityforums.org.