16:44 19 July 2012
An expose carried out by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists recently revealed a grisly marketplace centered on human body parts, including skin, bones, and tissue. These body parts are taken from the dead without consent from involved parties.
The discovery was made in February 24, when authorities in Ukraine found a white minibus filled with bones and other human tissues packed in coolers. Amid the body parts, the investigators also found envelopes containing autopsy results and cash. It turned out that these body parts were in transit and will eventually be used in medical and dental treatments, such as skin grafts, dental implants, cornea implants, tendons and ligaments repair, and cancer treatments, among others.
The autopsy documents that accompanied the body parts showed that the remains were of dead Ukrainians. Other documents revealed that they were headed for a factory in Germany that belonged to a subsidiary of RTI Biologics, a U.S. medical products company based in Florida.
RTI Biologics is just one of the companies that make profits by transforming human remains into any kind of medical and dental product. There are several concerns about this industry, such as how the tissues are obtained and how the transplant patients are informed about the risks that come with every implant. Many doctors are also concerned that if the trade is not regulated properly, diseased tissues can infect transplant patients with pathogens including HIV and hepatitis. Despite these, the industry has flourished, with the U.S. being the biggest market and also the biggest supplier.
Based on records drawn up from the U.S. alone, two million different products are derived using human tissue and sold every year. Statistics show that this number has doubled over the past decade.
RTI Biologics did not respond to requests for comments.
The investigation that revealed the inner workings of this grisly marketplace took eight months to complete and spanned 11 countries. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists found that aside from the flourishing of said trade, there is also inadequate efforts in ensuring that all tissue used in the industry is obtained legally and ethically.
Family members of a dead Ukrainian who discovered that his body parts had been recycled as anatomical material could only say, “They make money with our misfortune.” They represent just one grieving family out of many who have been victimized by the trade, and this statement sheds some light on the major ethical impacts the human remains marketplace has on society.
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