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Christopher Blackwell
market for human almost anyone can dissect and sell the dead
Wed Oct 25, 2017 4:35pm
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market for human bodies, almost anyone can dissect and sell the dead


By BRIAN GROW and JOHN SHIFFMAN

Filed Oct. 24, 2017, 11 a.m. GMT

Nevada’s suburban warehouse, the circumstances were far from comforting. In the fall of 2015, neighboring tenants began complaining about a mysterious stench and bloody boxes in a Dumpster. That December, local health records show, someone contacted authorities to report odd activity in the courtyard.

Health inspectors found a man in medical scrubs holding a garden hose. He was thawing a frozen human torso in the midday sun.

As the man sprayed the remains, “bits of tissue and blood were washed into the gutters,” a state health report said. The stream weaved past storefronts and pooled across the street near a technical school.

Southern Nevada, the inspectors learned, was a so-called body broker, a company that acquires dead bodies, dissects them and sells the parts for profit to medical researchers, training organizations and other buyers. The torso on the gurney was being prepared for just such a sale.

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.
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Body brokers also have become intertwined with the American funeral industry. Reuters identified 62 funeral operators that have struck mutually beneficial business arrangements with brokers. The funeral homes provide brokers access to potential donors. In return, the brokers pay morticians referral fees, ranging from $300 to $1,430, according to broker ledgers and court records.

These payments generate income for morticians from families who might not be able to otherwise afford even simple cremation. But such relationships raise potential conflicts of interest by creating an incentive for funeral homes to encourage grieving relatives to consider body donation, sometimes without fully understanding what might happen to the remains.

“Some funeral home directors are saying, ‘Cremation isn’t paying the bills anymore, so let me see if I can help people harvest body parts,’” said Steve Palmer, an Arizona mortician who serves on the National Funeral Directors Association’s policy board. “I just think families who donate loved ones would have second thoughts if they knew that.”

Some morticians have made body donation part of their own businesses. In Oklahoma, two funeral home owners invested $650,000 in a startup body broker firm. In Colorado, a family operating a funeral home ran a company that dissected and distributed body parts from the same building.

When a body is donated, few states provide rules governing dismemberment or use, or offer any rights to a donor's next of kin. Bodies and parts can be bought, sold and leased, again and again. As a result, it can be difficult to track what becomes of the bodies of donors, let alone ensure that they are handled with dignity.

http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-bodies-brokers/?ncid=newsltushpmgnews__TheMorningEmail__102517

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