Reuters Investigates “The Body Trade”

“Each year, thousands of Americans donate their bodies in the belief they are contributing to science. In fact, many are also unwittingly contributing to commerce, their bodies traded as raw material in a largely unregulated national market.

Body brokers are also known as non-transplant tissue banks. They are distinct from the organ and tissue transplant industry, which the U.S. government closely regulates. Selling hearts, kidneys and tendons for transplant is illegal. But no federal law governs the sale of cadavers or body parts for use in research or education. Few state laws provide any oversight whatsoever, and almost anyone, regardless of expertise, can dissect and sell human body parts.

‘The current state of affairs is a free-for-all,’ said Angela McArthur, who directs the body donation program at the University of Minnesota Medical School and formerly chaired her state’s anatomical donation commission. ‘We are seeing similar problems to what we saw with grave-robbers centuries ago,’ she said, referring to the 19th-century practice of obtaining cadavers in ways that violated the dignity of the dead.”

—Brian Grow and John Shiftman, “The Body Trade.” Reuters. October 24, 2017.