Cuomo Settlement With "bodies. . . .the Exhibition" Ends The Practice Of Using Human Remains Of Suspect Origins

NEW YORK, NY (May 29, 2008) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that he has reached a settlement with Premier Exhibitions (“Premier”) (NYSE: PRXI), the developer of the “Bodies” exhibitions, that brings an end to Premier’s practice of using bodies of undocumented origins in their exhibitions.  As a result of the settlement, Premier must now obtain documentation demonstrating the cause of death and origins of the cadavers and body parts it displays as well as proof that the decedent consented to the use of his or her remains in such a manner.  In addition, all prior visitors to the New York City Bodies exhibit are eligible for a refund of the price of their ticket.

Premier operates the popular “Bodies” exhibitions which display human bodies and body parts.  Bodies exhibitions are open at locations around the world, including New York City’s South Street Seaport.  Currently, all of the bodies on display were citizens or residents of China.  Advocacy groups and media reports have alleged that some of the bodies on exhibit were Chinese prisoners who were executed.  Although Premier previously maintained that the allegations were without basis, an investigation by Attorney General Cuomo showed that the company was unable to demonstrate the cause of death or the origin of the decedents.

“The grim reality is that Premier Exhibitions has profited from displaying the remains of individuals who may have been tortured and executed in China,” said Attorney General Cuomo.  “Despite repeated denials, we now know that Premier itself cannot demonstrate the circumstances that led to the death of the individuals.  Nor is Premier able to establish that these people consented to their remains being used in this manner.  Respect for the dead and respect for the public requires that Premier do more than simply assure us that there is no reason for concern.  This settlement is a start.” 

Under the Attorney General’s settlement:

  • Going forward, before displaying a body as part of any New York exhibit, Premier must obtain written documentation demonstrating the source of each body and body part, the cause of death, and the decedent’s consent to the use of his or her body.
  • Premier will provide full ticket refunds to all customers who can establish that they attended the New York exhibition and who represent that they would not have done so if they had known of the questionable origins of the bodies and parts on display.  Premier will place $50,000 in escrow for this purpose.
  • Premier will retain an independent monitor, at its own expense and for a term of 2 years, who will ensure that the terms of the settlement are followed.  The monitor will also oversee the refund process. 
  • In the event that Premier continues to display human remains in New York that were obtained before the Attorney General’s settlement, Premier will clearly disclose on its website, in the entrances of any New York exhibitions, and in its advertising that it is not able to confirm that the bodies and parts being displayed were not, or did not belong to, Chinese prisoners who may have been victims of torture and execution.

Kirk Donahoe, Assistant Director of the Laogai Research Foundation, said, “We applaud Attorney General Cuomo’s resolution of this matter.  This investigation has shed light on how certain U.S. exhibitions profited from the execution of Chinese prisoners.  Because of this settlement, it is now less likely that Premier and its competitors will obtain specimens from China for display not just in New York, but anywhere in the United States.  We call upon other law enforcement authorities to take similar action in other states and to help to bring these abuses to an end.”  The Laogai Research Foundation is a non-profit organization that gathers information on China’s extensive system of forced labor camps and documents systemic human rights violations in China.

The bodies and parts currently on display in New York are licensed to Premier by the Dalian Hoffen Bio Technique Company Limited (“DHBTC”).  DHBTC acquired the bodies indirectly from the Chinese Bureau of Police, which deemed them unclaimed at death.  The bodies were put through a process called “plastination,” in which a cadaver is stripped of its skin, dissected to show a part of the internal anatomy and infused with plastic that is then hardened.  Premier has already acknowledged that the bodies on display in the New York exhibit were unclaimed at death and that there was no documentation of the decedents’ consent to the display of their remains in this manner.

The Bodies exhibit is currently at New York City’s South Street Seaport.  That exhibition contains 20 full body cadavers and over 200 human parts, organs, fetuses, and embryos in various stages of development.  Premier cooperated with the Office of the Attorney General throughout this inquiry. 

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Karen Geduldig, under the supervision of Special Deputy Chief of Staff Mitra Hormozi.