Monday, October 26, 2009

Markets for body parts, continued

While it's illegal to buy or sell organs for treatment, there's a legal market for "tissues" such as bone. But it's still fenced in with lots of repugnance. As with solid organs, the issue of "objectification" (or "commodification") of the body is a big issue, which bears on who may be compensated for what, among other things..

Inside a Creepy Global Body Parts Business

"According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, more than a million bone parts are used in transplants every year. In no other country is it possible to make so much money with body parts. If a body were disassembled into its individual parts, then processed and sold, the total proceeds could amount to $250,000 (€176,000). For a single corpse! The US tissue industry generates total revenues of about $1 billion a year, says journalist Martina Keller, a co-author of this article and the author of the German book, "Cannibalized: The Human Corpse as a Resource." "

"Should corpses be butchered to make cosmetic procedures possible? Ingrid Schneider is decidedly opposed to the practice. For the past 15 years the Hamburg political scientist, a former member of the Investigative Commission on Law and Ethics in Modern Medicine in the German parliament, has been involved in the subject of recycling body substances. Schneider argues that the body is not a source of raw materials that can be sold at will. Given such concerns, it is not surprising that many people are deeply opposed to allowing the body of a family member to be reused, even for medical purposes.
Even if it is unrealistic to expect that all commercialization of the body could be ruled out in modern medicine, says Schneider, it is important to set boundaries. For that reason, she insists that human tissue ought to be used sparingly -- that is, only when such use is medically necessary and clearly superior to other forms of treatment.
The conviction that the body is much more than an object has also shaped the policies of the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Parliament and the European Council, the EU's body representing the leaders and ministers of the 27-member bloc. All of these bodies condemn the practice of trading in human body parts to turn a profit.
In Germany, the country's organ transplant act regulates the removal of tissue. Only those who have consented to organ and tissue harvesting are considered as donors. If a person dies and is not already a donor, his or her closest relatives can consent to donation. Paragraph 17 of the transplant act explicitly states: "Trading in organs or tissue intended for use in the medical treatment of others is prohibited." Physicians who remove tissue can only be paid suitable compensation for their efforts. The law calls for prison sentences of up to five years for violation of the trading prohibition."

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