Saturday, July 16, 2022

Legal and illegal sales of body parts

 U.S. law makes it illegal to sell deceased donor organs for transplant, i.e. to save a life, but it's otherwise legal to sell body parts or whole cadavers, for research, for instruction, etc.  Nevertheless, alongside the legal, regulated market, which requires consents and precautions, is an illegal black market which is occasionally prosecuted.  Here's a recent case, as reported in the NYT:

Funeral Home Operator Pleads Guilty in ‘Illegal Body Part Scheme’.  Megan Hess, who pleaded guilty to mail fraud, sold body parts without families’ consent... By Alex Traub

"The operator of a Colorado funeral home who was accused of stealing body parts and selling them to medical and scientific buyers, making hundreds of thousands of dollars in what the authorities called an “illegal body part scheme,” pleaded guilty to mail fraud on Tuesday, the Justice Department said.


"Here’s how prosecutors said the scheme worked: From about 2010 to 2018 Ms. Hess was in charge of Donor Services, a nonprofit “body broker service,” and Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors, which offered to arrange cremations, funerals and burials in the small western Colorado city of Montrose.

"Ms. Hess and her mother sometimes obtained consent from families to donate small tissue samples or tumors of their dead relative, according to an indictment in the case. On other occasions, their request was rejected, and sometimes, they never brought up the topic at all.

"In any case, the documents say, on hundreds of occasions the funeral home operators would sell heads, torsos, arms, legs or entire human bodies. Frequently, they delivered cremated remains to families with the suggestion they were the remains of their relative when, in fact, they were not, according to the indictment.


"The scheme included forging paperwork, such as signatures on authorization forms for donating body parts, and misleading buyers about the results of medical tests performed on the deceased, court documents said. Ms. Hess altered lab reports so that they said that people had tested negative for diseases like H.I.V. and hepatitis when they had actually tested positive, according to the authorities."

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