April 28, 2006
Get Your Body Parts Wholesale!
If there was ever a storyline I expected to see in Transmetropolitan, this is it! I’m guessing many of you have seen the USA Today special on the illegal selling of human body parts. You take your dead gramps to be cream-mated, and you get ashes alright, but they aren’t his. Instead, the crematorium or their employees have carved up his body and has cleared many thousands for selling all of his parts (hands, head, shoulder, eyes, legs, etc.) and organs (liver, brain, heart, lungs, etc.). Lest you think a regular burial prevents this outcome, you better check gramps’ insides before you lower the coffin - his brain may already be on its way to your favorite research facility by then!
Trafficking in body parts illegally harvested from the dead is a lucrative, underground business driven by growing demand for human bones and tissue, a USA TODAY investigation has found…Funeral home employees, crematorium operators and others with access to the recently deceased have secretly dismembered corpses, taking non-organ body parts such as knees, spines, bone and skin without the knowledge or consent of family members….
…Modern-day body snatchers provide bones, tendons and body parts other than transplantable organs to tissue banks, research facilities and other buyers. What they get paid: $600 for a brain, as much as $850 for an elbow, up to $850 for a hand, according to an analysis of market prices for fresh or frozen body parts used for research and education that was compiled by Annie Cheney, author of Body Brokers: Inside America’s Underground Trade in Human Remains.
Demand for tissue is growing. More than 19,000 square feet of skin were distributed in 2003 for transplant from accredited tissue banks, according to the American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB), up from 7,700 square feet in 1999. About 3,300 heart valves were distributed in 2003, up from 1,300 in 1999. Tumors and excess tissue that were once incinerated as waste can now be probed for DNA markers to help doctors understand disease.
Sometimes this business is enacted by individuals looking to make a buck, but more disturbing is the trend where the crematorium and other organizations themselves do this as their normal course of business.
If nothing else, this trend points to a further decay in the former “sacredness” of humanity. As we move toward a post-human, cyberpunked world, the perception of “uniqueness” each of us imagines we as individuals have begins to wear off. Moral boundaries are weakened, and behaviors previously thought taboo become commonplace. Welcome to the new world!