German corpse artist in 'professor' pickle

A German anatomist whose exhibit of preserved corpses has drawn international controversy went to court on Tuesday to appeal against a court ruling that said he was not qualified to use the title “professor”.

Gunther von Hagens was challenging two rulings in which a Heidelberg court imposed fines totalling €312 000. It found that he had acted illegally by signing documents as “professor” without stating where he gained his title.

Von Hagens, whose title was awarded by the Dalian Medical University in China, has rejected as “absurd” allegations of wrongdoing. In a written statement read by his lawyer, Von Hagens charged authorities were accusing him of being a con man.

“Those who know me, know that a title means nothing to me,” he said.

It wasn’t immediately clear when the Heidelberg administrative court would rule on Von Hagens’ appeal.

The complaint about his title was filed by Heidelberg University, where he worked between 1974 and 1996.
The university argued that he wrongfully gave the impression that he had a German professor’s title, which requires a post-doctoral thesis.

Prosecutors argued that Von Hagens can only call himself a professor if he adds the letters VRC, to indicate the title was earned in China.

Von Hagens’s attorneys charged that authorities had levied the fines in an attempt to force the 60-year-old anatomist into bankruptcy, noting that many foreigners called themselves professors at Heidelberg University without specifying where they earned their titles.

Von Hagens’s Body Worlds show has generated curiosity and outrage, drawing several million visitors in Japan, Korea, Britain, Germany and elsewhere. The exhibition, which includes a series of corpses in poses to show how the muscles work, made its United States debut in Los Angeles last year.—Sapa-AP

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