Why Thawing the Dead With a Hose Is Basically Legal

Reuters digs into the grim, gruesome, and largely unregulated world of cadavers
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 28, 2017 9:55 AM CDT
Why Thawing the Dead With a Hose Is Basically Legal
This stock image is grim, but so is the story.   (Getty Images)

When the subject is cadavers, and one of the first sentences is "grisly abuses abound," you know what's to come is likely not for the faint of heart. That's true with Reuters' investigation into the body trade: The story opens with a description of "bits of tissue" falling off a frozen cadaver that was being thawed outdoors with a garden hose. It was being handled by a "non-transplant tissue bank" or, more colloquially, a body broker, who dissects the body and sells the parts to medical students and researchers and other interested parties—often for profit. As for how they get the bodies in the first place, Reuters reports they often woo low-income families faced with daunting potential funeral bills by promising free cremation of (part of) the donated body.

In other cases, people are looking for an avenue to donate their body to science, without realizing the potential for abuses. As for what the brokers do with the body when they get it, well, it's pretty unregulated. A somewhat damning line: "Few state laws provide any oversight whatsoever, and almost anyone, regardless of expertise, can dissect and sell human body parts." And, yes, that lack of regulation extends to the aforementioned frozen cadaver, whose blood and tissue were seen streaming into a gutter: Southern Nevada Donor Services' only consequence was a misdemeanor pollution citation issued to one of its workers. Reuters documented 1,638 instances since 2004 in which a person's body part or parts were "misused, abused, or desecrated," including dissection via chainsaw. Read the full story here. (More cadaver stories.)

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