Francis Hopkinson – An Oration, Which Might Have Been Delivered to the Students in Anatomy:
“No where’s the difference? – to th’ impartial eye
A leg of mutton and a human thigh
Are just the same – for surely all must own
Flesh is but flesh, and bone is only bone.”
Why am I not surprised when I read Annie Cheney’s interesting piece in the AFR about the trade in body parts that we have seen only the tip of the CJD iceburg ? What has the trade in body parts got to do with BSE and CJD ?
Fresh corpses also serve as the raw material for a variety of surgical and cosmetic products. LifeCell of Branchburg, New Jersey, for example, uses cadaver skin to produce AlloDerm – motto: “Real Human Tissue, Real Easy” – which doctors use to patch the bodies of burn victims. That same flesh can be freeze-dried, stored as long as two years, and then, after being rehydrated, injected into lips, sagging facial lines and penises. At Regeneration Technologies in Florida, just two and a half hours north of Disney World, workers grind the long bones of corpses into dust, which is then made into paste, called Regenafil, and sold to periodontists, who use it for periodontal surgery. At the same factory, dead bones are fashioned into screws to fasten living bones back together. And at the American Red Cross centre in Costa Mesa, California, hearts are broken into pulmonic valves, aortic valves, or anything else that might be a viable product, and then suspended over liquid nitrogen until someone, somewhere, needs a piece.
Nobody seems to screen the ‘fresh body parts’ for contagious diseases, AIDS or the presence of prions, those lovely little proteins implicated in CJD. My Mum and Dad have willed their bodies to a University in Adelaide. Are the Universities as entrepreneurial as UCLA?
The director of UCLA’s Willed Body Program, Henry Reid, was arrested on March 6 for selling off bodies piecemeal instead of providing them to medical students for study, as the donors and their families had intended. Also taken into custody was Ernest Nelson, a 46-year-old body parts broker who claims that over six years he bought parts from some 800 cadavers from Reid with UCLA’s approval for more than $700,000. Though police have not said who was buying the UCLA body parts, Nelson told the Los Angeles Times that his clients included medical research companies such as Johnson & Johnson, which has confirmed that its business unit Mitek contracted with Nelson in the 1990s for human tissue samples.
I wonder if they have some sort of agreement that their remains will only be used for ‘the gift of knowledge’ or will their sagging cadavers enter the spare parts industry?
Collagen to plump up starlets’ lips. New knees to enable weekend athletes to play basketball again. Skin for burn victims. Cadavers for surgeons to practice on. A corpse-selling scandal at UCLA has underlined a squeamish fact for people thinking of leaving their remains to science: Bodies are big money.
Tendons and ligaments are used to treat sports injuries, long bones to replace those eaten away by cancer, shaped bone products for spinal surgery, ground bone in dental surgery. Cadavers supply corneas and heart valves; help medical students learn anatomy; give surgeons practice in cutting, stitching, and other techniques; and have even served as crash test dummies. Cadaver collagen finds its way into people’s lips. Heart valves can fetch $5,000 to $7,000 each. Skin, used to dress the wounds of burn victims, can go for $1,000 a square foot. If a single body could provide all its organs, the cadaver would be worth $150,000…..
It appears that the world-wide spare parts business is booming,
Per year, 300,000 people receive organ transplants worldwide. The supply does not match the demand, generating a massive global search for possible organ donors. In desperation, many individuals resort to illegal means to obtain an organ for transplantation, such as using black market trade to purchase executed prisoners’ organs. As previously mentioned, Amnesty International asserts that more than 4,500 executions occur every year in China. Many researchers argue that executions in China are organized around how to extract of the organs in the most efficient manner. Hence, it is fair to assume that most of these prisoners killed by the death penalty, if not all killed, have their organs removed and sold. The numerous non-Chinese government articles written related to this case, state that the sale of human organs can procure an upwards amount of 30,000 U.S. dollars per organ. In Ms. Scheper-Huges article, she states that individuals from such Middle Eastern countries such as, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates travel to India to obtain human organs, while persons from Asia will procure their organs from China.
And the businessman referred to in Annie Cheney’s article see a big future.
As Perna sees it, there are plenty of people who would like to make something of themselves in death, if not in life. He imagines a streamlined future for the cadaver trade, in which straight talk about real needs replaces prudish euphemism. “If I was you,” he said, “I would open up a company that is just going to basically buy bodies.” The company would pay, he said, something like $US20,000 for a cadaver, chop it up and then sell the pieces for $US200,000.
Poor families would enjoy a new source of income, the company would make a large profit, and the marketplace would finally be provided precisely the parts it desired. “You wanna buy a heart?” he asked. “Here it is, baby! One through 10! Different sizes! Different blood types! Whatever!” Perna is a charming man, and his enthusiasm for the cadaver trade is infectious. The more I talked to him, the more I thought maybe we should all be getting into the cadaver business, as brokers or suppliers or both. “Think about it, it would be like farming. You’d be farming people!” he said.
There’s probably an opening in the market here in Australia. Perhaps I could talk the oldies into being my first customers !