Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Doctor defends Body Worlds exhibition

Gunther von Hagens, the controversial scientist who preserves human corpses using the technique of plastination and displays them to the public has defended his latest exhibition ahead of its opening today.

The German scientist, whose Body Worlds And The Mirror Of Time exhibition is being staged at the O2 Arena in London, said he was presenting a "health message".

The show features a total of 200 cadavers from babies to the elderly which have been arranged in lifelike poses and preserved using Dr von Hagens' controversial "plastination" technique.

This involves peeling the skin back to reveal the inner organs, arteries and muscles and encasing it all in plastic.

Dr von Hagens said: "This exhibition is all about the cycle of life, from the spark of conception, to the development of a mature body, and it goes through to elderly people.

"It shows the whole spectrum of life. It shows how we develop and we age."

"We realise how our lifestyle entrances our organs, our body, and in this way, our capability in life, our length of life and how we feel."

"People will learn about the importance of their bodies. They will learn how fragile and how strengthful the body is."

He added: "It gives a strong message, it is a life-changing experience, only the real is able to change our habits."

Mirror Of Time is Dr von Hagens' first London exhibition since 2003.

His previous Body Worlds shows have been dubbed "the goriest on earth" for their no-holds barred look at human anatomy.

But he rubbished claims that his work was frightening, saying it helped visitors to "understand death".

"Mortality is scary, but this exhibition is not scary," he insisted.

"People are only scared when they hear about about it, but not when they see it. When you understand death, you will live a healthier life and worship your life."

An estimated 26 million people have seen the Body Worlds shows in 47 cities around the world since they started in 1995.

The doctor hit the headlines in the UK six years ago after performing the first public autopsy for 170 years.