A HUMAN rights campaigner from Hagley is among a group of doctors calling for regulations governing tissue importation to the UK to be tightened after concerns were raised about an exhibition of human corpses in Birmingham.

Dr David Nicholl, a consultant neurologist at City Hospital in Birmingham, wrote to the city’s coroner Louise Hunt urging her to hold an inquest into how the skinless human specimens in the recent Real Bodies The Exhibition at the NEC, preserved through plastination, met their deaths amid fears they may have been executed Chinese prisoners.

His request was denied with the coroner saying she carried out a preliminary investigation “which included an external examination of each body at the NEC by a forensic pathologist” and that she was "satisfied" her duty to investigate did not arise.

But Dr Nicholl continued to highlight concerns about the exhibition, which has now finished, writing a letter to The Times, to his MP Sajid Javid and even organising a press conference calling for action to close a loophole in the Human Tissue Act 2004, which stipulates that people wishing to be displayed in public after death must give written consent but which does not apply to bodies or specimens imported from abroad.

At the conference at Sandwell General Hospital on August 21, with fellow medical professionals, he said the Act should be reviewed and that exhibitors bringing body parts into the UK must be able to demonstrate they have obtained consent from the next of kin for public display.

Dr Nicholl and a group of medical colleagues also penned an open letter to Prime Minister Theresa May highlighting fears over the origins of the mostly young male bodies in the exhibition and urging for an investigation to include DNA analysis of the plastinated corpses to help identify who the deceased were and to inform changes in the law to ensure the importation of tissue into the UK is ethical.

He told the News: “It’s a sad world when a butcher is able to track a steak to not just the herd but the very cow that was slaughtered, yet we have no idea who the corpses who were held in the NEC are.

“We have a travelling circus of these plastinated exhibitions which are promoted on a façade of medical education."

He said proposals to potentially identify the deceased featured in the shows would put an end to fears about the origins of the corpses and he added: "Currently the Human Tissue Act facilitates these shows and inhibits the very science that could identify them.”

The Human Tissue Authority, which regulates the use, donation, and display of tissue in the UK, said although the Human Tissue Act does not apply to bodies or specimens imported from abroad it "expects anyone who displays imported specimens to make sure that no laws have been broken in the country of origin".

A spokesman for the HTA said it had inspected the exhibition, run by US based Imagine Exhibitions, before it opened to the public to ensure it met licensing standards and added: "We were also provided with information stating that the bodies were lawfully obtained, and that the donors died from natural causes.”

Imagine Exhibitions describes the display as a "powerful thought-provoking exhibition exploring life" and it says the 20 real bodies featured have been "perfectly and respectfully preserved" to highlight the human experience from the first breath to the last.

It describes the exhibition as educational and says it "digs deeper into the beauty of the body, mind and soul than any other exhibition of its kind".

It says the specimens featured are provided by Dalian Hoffen Bio-Technique Co Ltd, one of the world’s leading centres of plastination research and innovation, and that all are unclaimed bodies donated by relevant authorities to medical universities in China.

A note on the Imagine Exhibitions website adds: "The specimens featured in the exhibition were donated legally, were never prisoners of any kind, showed no signs of trauma or injury, were free of infectious disease, and died of natural causes."