Body Worlds inspires Minnesotans to donate bodies

7:36 PM, Apr 23, 2013   |    comments
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - In a addition to drawing crowds, a popular exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota is also inspiring Minnesotans to become part of future exhibits.

Museum spokesperson Kim Ramsden says about 40 Minnesotans have donated their bodies to Body Worlds since the "Body Worlds and the Cycle of Life" exhibit first debuted in Minnesota back in 2006.

Jarren Peterson, a teacher from Minneapolis, is among the latest to make the decision to donate his body to science.

"First and foremost I wanted to be an organ donor," Peterson said. "That's top priority for me. My friend and I went to the Body Worlds exhibit the first time it came, and at the end it said, 'Do you want to be a donor?' I just decided to do it."

The decision was easy for Peterson after she discovered she could donate her organs and still donate her body to the cause.

The display is on its' second tour back to the state and showcases the human body in different stages from the beginning to end of life.

Body Worlds has seen about 13,000 donors since it began in the early 1980s. Most are living donors from Germany and the program has drawn so much interest, the exhibit is no longer accepting donations.

"What's really amazing about Body Worlds is that without these donated bodies, we wouldn't know what we know today, some of the medical advancements. We wouldn't be able to see a smoker's lung, or see obesity. Some of that comes from people who have chosen their bodies," said Ramsden.

The bodies are preserved through a process called plastination which replaces the body's water with plastic, a process Ramsden says was developed for medical students to learn more about the body.

"I was very intrigued by the preservation of the bodies and everything like that and thought it would be very good thing to donate to science. I like the way they show the lifecycle of the body, too," said Carl Hancock, another donor from Bloomington.

Hancock says seeing the exhibit has also changed the way he lives.

"I have seen what smoker's lungs look like inside and out, and I want to keep healthy like that. I do bicycling and try to go to the gym keep cardio up stay in good shape," said Hancock.

Peterson acknowledges that her decision has drawn slight scrutiny from family members, but she's confident in her choice, which she says isn't a profound decision, just a personal one.

"I am a teacher, so I guess I feel like I will keep on teaching people after I'm gone. I just think it is important if we can learn from my body after it is gone or somebody else, it's a great thing," she said.

The "Body Worlds and the Cycle of Life" exhibit will be on display at the Science Museum until May 5.

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