The charge of title misuse against plastination inventor Gunther von Hagens has been dismissed by the Higher Regional Court (OLG) Karlsruhe. “The judges have thereby ended a dispute extending over two years as to whether the originator of the Body Worlds exhibition may use the title professor of the Chinese Dalian University in Germany“, said von Hagens’ defence counsel, Franz-Josef Schillo of the Dresden office of the international law firm Nörr Stiefenhofer Lutz. The verdict published today is final (18 July, File No.: 2 Ss 294).
Von Hagens holds the title “Visiting Professor“ granted by the medical faculty of the Dalian University in China. In Germany, he occasionally signed documents on which his name was printed as “Prof. Dr. Gunther von Hagens“. However, he always signed only “Gunther von Hagens“ or “Dr. Gunther von Hagens“. The OLG found that the active use of a title required for an offence under § 132 a Strafgesetzbuch (Misuse of titles) was not thereby established. The judges in fact emphasised that all parties correctly assumed that he is properly a professor and not a fraud.
The lower courts had seen the matter differently. The Amtsgericht Heidelberg on 26 April 2005 fined von Hagens 108,000 Euro. The Landgericht Heidelberg on 28. September 2006 reduced this to 48,000 Euro with payment suspended. The fine would only have become payable if von Hagens again breached the prohibition on using the title “professor“.
“Much ado about nothing“, commented Schillo. “If the authorities had not commenced criminal proceedings for this trifling matter, our client would have been spared much anxiety and damage to his good name as a scientist“.