Fiona Ma for State Assembly

Legislation to Regulate Dead Body Exhibits Moves on to The Governor

Legislation to regulate dead body exhibits, authored by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco), passed the Assembly Floor today with bipartisan support and a vote 62-5 and will now move to the Governor's desk. On Wednesday, the legislation passed the Senate by a vote of 24-10. Assembly Bill 1519 makes California the first state to prohibit the commercial profit and public display of human bodies or remains, unless exhibitors provide documented informed consent of the deceased or next-of-kin.

"These displays do have important educational benefits, but using bodies against a person´s will is unacceptable" said Assemblywoman Ma. "This bill will end the practice of unwilled dead-body trafficking."

The "Bodies Revealed" exhibit, which was on display in Sacramento earlier this year and is currently on display in Redding, came under intense scrutiny earlier this year when a 20/20 report raised alarming concerns over the use of "unclaimed" Chinese bodies. Atlanta-based Premier Exhibitions, who puts on the Bodies Revealed exhibits obtains bodies from China that are infused with silicone through a process called "plastination" for display across the nation. The report concluded that displays were unwilled human remains.

"As an Asian American, I know that few people from my community would voluntarily donate their organs or bodies due to the strong cultural preference of leaving their body intact for burial after death," said Assemblywoman Ma. "I am hopeful that the bill will receive the Governor´s signature and the practice of unwilled body trafficking will be put to a halt."

Specifically, AB 1519 will prohibit the commercial display of human remains beginning on January 1, 2010 unless exhibitors of human remains file an affidavit to the Attorney General, detailing the bodies and specimens on display, and attesting that the bodies received have provided full informed consent, while maintaining a paper trail for public inspection.

The bill sends a message to exhibitors that California appreciates learning about the human body but does not accept the commercial exploitation of unwilled bodies.