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Woman with epilepsy now not subject of UK public autopsy

20 November, 2002

Reports suggest that the first public autopsy in the UK for over 170 years, taking place this week, will now not be of a woman with epilepsy.

Professor Gunther von Hagens, whose controversial Bodyworld exhibition has been running in London since March, will perform an autopsy before an audience of up to 500 people.

Epilepsy organisations are claiming that Professor von Hagens has now agreed not to carry out the procedure on someone with epilepsy.

Before the change was made, Professor von Hagens said consent had been given by the woman with epilepsy whose body was being used and her family.

He said he and his two assistants at the dissection hoped to discover the cause of death, but there were no suspicious circumstances and the body had been released by the coroner in Germany, where the woman, who died at the age of 33, lived. He said:

"She had epilepsy and died in June. It is possible that she died in an epileptic seizure so we will take a special interest in the brain".

The Department of Health has said it expects the police to step in to stop the autopsy after Her Majesty's Inspector of Anatomy ruled that Professor von Hagens did not have a licence to carry out the autopsy.