Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/12/20/body_map_vote/

NHS frets over Brits' genitalia

To pixelate or let it all hang out?

By Lester Haines

Posted in Science, 20th December 2007 10:04 GMT

UK health portal NHS Choices has got itself into a bit of a tiz over whether or not to show unexpurgated genitalia in a forthcoming update of its interactive Body Map - an issue apparently so sensitive it has decided to put the matter to a public vote.

The blurb explains:

NHS Choices will soon be updating its body map with much more sophisticated digital images (shown below) that allow users to strip away the dummies' skin to reveal their insides.

The images - which include beating hearts - have been provided by Primal Pictures and exactly replicate the internal and external structure of the human body. They will be uploaded to the site in January to coincide with the re-launch of our Health A-Z section.

However, debate has been raging within Choices as to whether the images should be anatomically correct and include genitalia or whether their nether regions should be masked.

Since the time of the ancient Greeks there have been differing views over the depiction of the human body. The Greeks believed that heroes and gods should be depicted in a state of "heroic nudity".

This became the norm for most depictions of the human form in art and science until the middle of the nineteenth century when the public began to demand more modest portraiture. Even today, body maps on health websites worldwide appear with their genitalia masked or pixelated.

For the moment, the Choices team is erring on the side of caution and featuring edited images. However, we want you - our users - to have a say. Take a look at the two sets of images below and then use the email links to let us know your preference. Feel free to add your reasoning to the email if you like.

The two Body Map oprions - censored and uncensored

Good Lord. Suffice it to say, so shocked were El Reg hacks by the chap on the left's state of "heroic nudity", that they're all as we speak in the traditional darkened room sipping the obligatory tea with seven sugars.

In case you're wondering what prompted this outbreak of Victorian prudishness, Paul Nuki, editor of the NHS Choices site, gave the game away when he spoke to the BBC: "I think it's an American modesty that has set the tone for this sort of thing on the net and, for some, it's now become a worry to let it all hang out. On the other hand, we've got some very strong internal advocates for the full monty. In the end we thought it best that our users have a proper say."

Speaking for the "let it all hang out" camp, Professor Sir Muir Gray, chief knowledge officer for the NHS, offered: "I'm all for the genitalia, anything else would just be an overly prudish Victorian approach. It's completely bonkers: the edited versions resemble space aliens. People have to accept this is the 21st century."

So, the choice is yours: heroic nudity with the associated risk of offending American sensibilities; or todgerless space aliens. Go to it. ®

Bootnote

Ta very much to Neil Shaw for the heads-up. Oh yes, and the first person to make the "Nuki" joke is banned from reading El Reg for a month.