A NAME that strikes fear into many people is that of Dr Gunther von Hagens.
Bearing an uncanny resemblance to an evil adversary of Indiana Jones or James Bond, the doctor appears to wield his scalpel with unnerving ease.
But I have made the decision to donate my body to the medical marvel after visiting the Body Worlds exhibition.
“He’s mad,” is the instant reaction from most people when they hear this.
Even my better half – who works in a similar field to Dr Von Hagens – was taken aback when I informed her of my actions.
I must explain myself, though.
I attended the controversial exhibition at the Manchester Science and Industry Museum in my capacity as a junior reporter some years ago.
Officially, I was at work and I have to say that work and entertainment blended beautifully on this occasion.
I was in awe of the sheer scale of what Dr Von Hagens is addressing in his unique exhibition.
Far from being the sinister show I had anticipated, I found it a highly educational insight into what the human body is all about.
I went back a week later for a second look and took my nephews, who found it as inspiring as I did.
The questions it raised in me led me to inquire further. I requested some information about Dr Von Hagens’s Institute For Plastination in Heidelberg, Germany.
After much thought and soul-searching I decided to take the plunge and donate my body to the institute when I die.
That means that when the time is up, my body will be taken to the institute and my remains will undergo the process of plastination.
It is an innovative procedure which links anatomy and polymer chemistry – making it possible to preserve tissues and organs as well as the entire body itself.
This means I will never decompose and, in theory, my body will be around forever.
The reaction from family and friends was mixed. My sister was shocked, my friends horrified.
My GP – positively ecstatic – spent half an hour endorsing my decision with the excitement of a child at Christmas.
I do feel, though, that, having benefited from the Dr Von Hagens’s exhibition, it is only fair to give something back.
It is important to educate people about the human body and this is a worthwhile, beneficial way of doing it.
Among the many other things demonstrated by Dr Von Hagens is the effects of smoking. On show for all to see is a healthy lung and that of a heavy smoker. If you were looking for a reason to kick the habit...
He also explores the more mundane but no less fascinating, like how muscles work and the function of blood vessels.
Surprisingly, it was also revealed how little we know for certain about how the brain works.
After my decision, I now carry a donor card. My family may have been horrified by my decision but, of course, they will benefit by not having to shell out a small fortune on my funeral.
I am not a religious person, but I believe there are times in life when everyone takes stock and that is one of Dr Von Hagens’s aims.
Everyone should make a point of trying to experience one of his exhibitions.
They tend to shock you out of complacency.
Dr Von Hagens said: “I hope for the exhibitions to be places of enlightenment and contemplation, even of philosophical and religious self-recognition, and open to interpretation regardless of the background and philosophy of life of the viewer.”
Further details on the process of plastination can be found at www.bodyworlds.com