US Human Body Market Thriving Amid Lack of Regulation – Report
REUTERS/ John ShiffmanUS15:53 25.10.2017(updated 15:57 25.10.2017) Get short URL
In its exclusive report, Reuters goes deep inside the body broker industry in the United States, a lucrative market that seriously lacks regulation and provokes controversies.
Donated bodies play a very important role in medical education, training and research, and demand for body broker services remains high, sometimes even exceeding supply, according to Reuters.
“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,” the report said.
Body brokers, also known as non-transplant tissue banks, are distinct from the organ and tissue transplant industry which is under strict government control in the US, according to the report.
“The industry’s business model hinges on access to a large supply of free bodies, which often come from the poor. In return for a body, brokers typically cremate a portion of the donor at no charge. By offering free cremation, some death care industry veterans say, brokers appeal to low-income families at their most vulnerable moment,” Reuters said.
Despite the industry’s importance for medical research and the rising demand for the services, there is no national registry of body brokers and no federal law regulates the sale of bodies and body parts for research and educational purposes.
As the result, in most states anyone can legally purchase body parts and many body brokers can “operate in near anonymity, quietly making deals to obtain cadavers and sell the parts.”
Reuters noted that it is nearly impossible to evaluate the size of this market as there only four states that closely track donations and sales of body parts, including New York, Virginia, Oklahoma and Florida. Based on data obtained from these four states, the authors of the report calculated that from 2011 through 2015, brokers received at least 50,000 bodies and distributed over 182,000 body parts.