In the awfully gory movie, “Train,” body parts are acquired in ways far too grisly to imagine. While such scares are fine for the movie screen, the truth is that there is a sinister underground that deals in such wares and the details are as ominous as one would think. Thankfully, there is another way.
Yahoo News reminds us that only last July, on the 20th, “a Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship departed Charleston, South Carolina carrying thousands of containers.” One of those containers did not hide the normal contraband of drugs and guns, however, but a different “product”;”body parts from dozens of dead Americans.“. However, everything was legal, lives were going to be saved, and studies will be done without the need to harm any living person.
The manifest showed that the “shipment” which was to arrive in Europe “included about 6,000 pounds of human remains valued at $67,204.” It was at no point to be changed for its set temperature of just “5 degrees Fahrenheit” in order to prevent spoilage.
The containers were from a Portland business called MedCure Inc, and they are called “body brokers.” The body parts come from “altruistic donors” and are needed by “medical training and research companies.”
Either by selling or leasing, about 10,000 human segments are sold and roughly 20% of them are shipped overseas. A distribution hub is located in the Netherlands and everything is handled with the utmost care and respect.
Yahoo tells us that “a pelvis and legs to a university in Malaysia; feet to medical device companies in Brazil and Turkey; and heads to hospitals in Slovenia and the United Arab Emirates….” the list goes on and on.
There are not a lot of regulations on when and how such material is sold though there is one time when Uncle Sam does flex his muscle a bit. Any time that body parts leave or come into the country, that is when a bit more notice is taken. Border agents need to be on the lookout for dangerous diseases and similar issues.
This matters quite a bit since another entity, “Detroit broker Arthur Rathburn,” was found to be storing body parts “in grisly, unsanitary conditions” and it was this oversight which prevented the practice from continuing.
One problem is that family members said that their loved ones often did not know that their body would be dismembered and sent on a boat to another country. “There are people who wouldn’t necessarily mind where the specimens were sent if they were fully informed,” said Brandi Schmitt, director of the University of California “system’s anatomical donation program.”
Schmitt added, “But clearly there are plenty of donors that do mind and that don’t feel like they’re getting enough information.”
There has even been an F.B.I. an investigation into MedCure, and while the data therein is sealed, many say that it pertains to overseas shipments of human material. “MedCure is committed to meeting and exceeding the highest standards in the industry. It takes very seriously its obligation to not only deliver safe specimens securely but to do it in a way that respects the donors,” promised their lawyer, Jeffrey Edelson.
The goal here is to save lives.
Perhaps, in the confusion of manifest shipments and second-guessing the deceased, we have lost track of that important fact. Moving forward, it certainly would be prudent to make it more clear what will happen to a donor once his or her body is accepted, but this can be achieved without much fuss. New forms and contracts are crafted by businesses every day, after all.
Meanwhile, breakthroughs are happening at a rapid rate and we can all be thankful and grateful to those who give their body so that new doctors can be trained and new techniques can be mastered.
Otherwise, progress all but comes to grinding halt.