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Harvest of Corpses

By xah in News
Sun May 07, 2000 at 01:34:48 PM EST
Tags: etc (all tags)

According to an article in the Independent, a UK newspaper, American organ donors are unknowingly providing the raw material for a wide-variety of cosmetic procedures. Neither donors or families are told of the high rate of profits made by the sale of parts harvested from donated corpses.

Sometimes it's better not to ask what's in the hot dog.

Organ donors still save lives and contribute to scientific knowledge and the education of med students, of course. But the leftover remains are apparently reused in the form of crushed bone powder for dental fillings, collagen for breast and penis augmentation, and more. Apparently a dead body is worth over $100,000 in the cadaver market. Already one state, Arizona, has pledged to stop this practice, according to a CNN article. The Orange Country Register (a newspaper in California) broke the story but demands money to read their archived stories.


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Harvest of Corpses | 35 comments (35 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
I can't wait to see the comments on... (1.00 / 1) (#13)
by JumpSuit Boy on Sun May 07, 2000 at 01:28:59 AM EST

JumpSuit Boy voted 1 on this story.

I can't wait to see the comments on this one.
The Director disavows any knowledge of the preceding comment.

Glad you found a source other than ... (none / 0) (#7)
by your_desired_username on Sun May 07, 2000 at 01:45:39 AM EST

your_desired_username voted 1 on this story.

Glad you found a source other than the Orange County Register.

This reminds of the organlegging in Larry Niven's Known Space alternate future.

For a long time I have been assuming that artificial organs, and the difficulty of storing / transporting organs would make this a non-issue.

I had not thought of the reprocessed tissue angle. (Niether had Larry Niven.)

Re: Glad you found a source other than ... (none / 0) (#18)
by FlinkDelDinky on Sun May 07, 2000 at 02:32:36 PM EST

This reminds of the organlegging in Larry Niven's Known Space alternate future.

What's this about? I haven't read it.

[ Parent ]

Re: Glad you found a source other than ... (2.00 / 1) (#19)
by fluffy grue on Sun May 07, 2000 at 03:11:31 PM EST

Niven's short story 'Jigsaw Man' (in 'All the Myriad Ways' IIRC) is about how organ harvesting became so useful and necessary that (literally) every little offense eventually becomes a capital crime so that the government can keep on harvesting organs from its constituents. It's a recommended read, especially for the punchline at the end; it's like a long, very macabre joke.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Re: Glad you found a source other than ... (1.00 / 1) (#22)
by FlinkDelDinky on Sun May 07, 2000 at 06:26:21 PM EST

Thanks, I'll grab it this week and give it a read.

[ Parent ]
how nasty... ... (2.00 / 1) (#17)
by h2odragon on Sun May 07, 2000 at 02:14:21 AM EST

h2odragon voted -1 on this story.

how nasty... "Thos who love sausage and politics should watch neither being made" -- somebody a lot smarter than me...

> Sometimes it's better not to ask ... (1.00 / 1) (#6)
by Zarniwoop on Sun May 07, 2000 at 02:14:31 AM EST

Zarniwoop voted 1 on this story.

> Sometimes it's better not to ask what's in the hot dog. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwww... Now that really is disturbing (the corpse harvesting part, I know the hot dog thing is just morbid humor). I have to wonder if materials from other animals wouldn't do just as well.

Sick, but amusing. ... (1.00 / 1) (#10)
by pb on Sun May 07, 2000 at 03:08:22 AM EST

pb voted 0 on this story.

Sick, but amusing.

I am somehow reminded of the soap from Fight Club.
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall

It's something people should know, ... (1.00 / 1) (#5)
by TomG on Sun May 07, 2000 at 03:11:18 AM EST

TomG voted -1 on this story.

It's something people should know, but it's not technology news.

You know, I'm registered as an orga... (4.00 / 2) (#1)
by FlinkDelDinky on Sun May 07, 2000 at 03:16:58 AM EST

FlinkDelDinky voted 1 on this story.

You know, I'm registered as an organ donor in my state. If my bod is worth 100k how come I haven't been compensated? You'd get a hell of a lot more orgon donors if you gave somebody 5k for signing on the dotted line at the dmv.

I only read the cnn article and it didn't mention dental fillings (seems far fetched), dicks, or tits, I feel cheated. It's a bit upsetting that some stuff is being used for cosmetics over those of genuine need.

I have no problem with my tissues being used to repair damage. Nor do I have a problem with selling the rights to 10% of my skin to be harvested for cosmetic use should I perish before my time. And if I don't die, well that's the risk they took when they purchased their 'rights'.

I do have a problem with stuff being used for people who aren't damaged. Especially if I haven't been compensated for it (before my death). And doubly so if they're passing over someone in need.

Hmmm...this is fucked up.... (1.00 / 1) (#8)
by buzzbomb on Sun May 07, 2000 at 03:31:39 AM EST

buzzbomb voted 1 on this story.

Hmmm...this is fucked up.

Ack -- if this is true, it's someth... (1.00 / 1) (#15)
by Wodin on Sun May 07, 2000 at 04:03:28 AM EST

Wodin voted 1 on this story.

Ack -- if this is true, it's something that needs to be stopped immediately. My organ donor card is because i want my organs to be used to save a life, not for some 75-yrear-old rich man to have a penis augmentation.... ish.

This is interesting (and really cre... (1.00 / 1) (#3)
by evro on Sun May 07, 2000 at 04:07:06 AM EST

evro voted 1 on this story.

This is interesting (and really creepy) but I don't really think it fits in with the site. Anyway, I was told my white filling was made of porcelain... wouldn't bone powder be more expensive? And don't people using collagen for body-part augmentation ask where it's coming from? Well, since I've already contributed to discussion, I'll give this a 1 instead of a 0.
"Asking me who to follow -- don't ask me, I don't know!"

Interesting. I'm fine with the use... (2.00 / 1) (#4)
by fluffy grue on Sun May 07, 2000 at 04:10:19 AM EST

fluffy grue voted 1 on this story.

Interesting. I'm fine with the uses of the corpses, but only if the families of the deceased were to be given some sort of compensation. Obviously, in the case of transplants, the organs don't make the hospitals any profit (the "profit" is all on paying the surgeons, which really isn't that much), but in the case of byproducts, the non-consentual high-profit usage is highly unethical, and even with consent it irks me that the next-of-kin doesn't even get any sort of compensation.

On a lighter note, where did people think all that collagen *came* from? (Actually, I never thought of its origins, and likely most people don't.)
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

Its an interesting artice ... (1.00 / 1) (#16)
by shonson on Sun May 07, 2000 at 07:20:56 AM EST

shonson voted -1 on this story.

Its an interesting artice But i dont see it being apropiate to k5.org
-- Steven in #kuro5hin

Re: Its an interesting artice... (2.00 / 1) (#24)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun May 07, 2000 at 06:54:09 PM EST

This story is an example of how increases in technology affect modern day culture. 100 years ago, this might not have been a problem, but this information right here is definitely the intersection of technology and culture. Not quite from the trenches, but close.

[ Parent ]
Re: Its an interesting artice... (none / 0) (#29)
by rusty on Mon May 08, 2000 at 06:03:13 AM EST

Insert obligatory joke about exactly how "from the trenches" your standard corpse is here. :-)

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
I'm kind of torn on the issue. The... (3.00 / 1) (#9)
by enthalpyX on Sun May 07, 2000 at 11:21:46 AM EST

enthalpyX voted 1 on this story.

I'm kind of torn on the issue. The rationalist inside me says, "Who cares, they're dead?" But yet again, the thought of bone powder being used the next time my gums get messed up -- it's just repulsive. <p /> I wonder if there's some clause on the organ donor form that allows this kind of remedial usage of other miscellaneous body parts. I'm sure myself and many others, out of principle, wouldn't allow our respective bodies to be used for something so shallow as the vanity of models. <p /> Is it possible to be an organ donor, and restrict the usage of your body parts to only cases that actually save lives?

Re: I'm kind of torn on the issue. The... (none / 0) (#26)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun May 07, 2000 at 11:42:07 PM EST

Pun intended?
Anyways, it could save lives. For example, what if a supermodel has no other means of supporting (her/him)self other than being a supermodel. Well, as skin starts to sag, etc, their means of survival are threatened. So please, remember that 'vanity' is not the only thing at work here!

[ Parent ]
yuuuuuuuurgh... ... (1.00 / 1) (#12)
by ishbak on Sun May 07, 2000 at 11:44:50 AM EST

ishbak voted 1 on this story.


I actually wouldn't mind if my body... (3.00 / 2) (#2)
by Imperator on Sun May 07, 2000 at 12:10:30 PM EST

Imperator voted 1 on this story.

I actually wouldn't mind if my body were used for cosmetic surgery, so long as the proceeds went to a worthwhile cause. After I die, I won't be terribly concerned with my body, so if my bone powder can be sold to buy vaccinations for third world countries, all the better. Of course, there are probably people who'd get upset about the "sanctity" of my corpse and throw their One True Religion in there somewhere, but in an ideal world I'd be able to do what I wished with my own corpse.

Re: I actually wouldn't mind if my body... (1.00 / 1) (#23)
by IcI on Sun May 07, 2000 at 06:36:58 PM EST

I too would not mind having my body parts reused and if it really is a temple of God then maybe he should be happy that I'm helping somebody who is alive stay that way. (mind you, there are things worse than death, but thats besides the point) With a good lawyer you could surely add in your own clauses stipulating what they should be used for.

PS Why is my sig not in three lines?

<pre> oo oo
BIG Brother is watching
\\ \/ /\ //
[ Parent ]
Re: I actually wouldn't mind if my body... (none / 0) (#28)
by rusty on Mon May 08, 2000 at 05:12:00 AM EST

Your sig is interpreted as HTML. Put a <BR> after each line if you want it to be broken there.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Soylent green is people.... (2.00 / 2) (#14)
by LatteBoy on Sun May 07, 2000 at 12:28:29 PM EST

LatteBoy voted 1 on this story.

Soylent green is people.

Why +1? Because I want to be a brea... (3.50 / 4) (#11)
by tidepool on Sun May 07, 2000 at 01:04:02 PM EST

tidepool voted 1 on this story.

Why +1? Because I want to be a breast in my next life.

Re: Harvest of Corpses (1.50 / 2) (#20)
by Saint Zero on Sun May 07, 2000 at 03:13:11 PM EST

At first, this sounds like the urban legend about kidney theft being rampant. Then you find out they've actually been selling skin behind everyone's back so some rich model can have bigger tits and the like. I _won't_ be an organ donor, just so I can screw over people like this.
---------- Patron Saint of Nothing, really.
Re: Harvest of Corpses (5.00 / 2) (#21)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun May 07, 2000 at 05:27:03 PM EST

The organisation that handles the organ's from donors is a non-profit agency. They make ends meet by selling the non-lifesaving tissues and organs people donate that are not suitable for transplant. For instance, one of the companies I work for was dealing in defective human hearts for a while. The hearts were valuble in that they could be broken down into various enzymes that are impossible to synthisize. While these hearts were not being transplanted in humans, they still were saving lives in the form of medical controls. Animal tissue isn't suitable for everything. Compensation for the donated organs to either the deceased or their family is impractical since it raises all sorts of issues. "I sold Daddy's carcass for a new car." Wake up folks, the process of getting these organs to transplant is very costly. If the organ donor system were controled by a for-profit entity (Johnson and Johnson) then this discussion might have some merit. It would be a real shame if people stopped helping their fellow man because they disapprove of cosmetic surgery. It's a gross generalization to reduce cosmetic surgery to nose jobs and breast implants. Think about victims of fire, car accidents, jealous ex husbands with a jar of acid, children with a cleft palate, etc.

[ Parent ]
Re: Harvest of Corpses (3.00 / 1) (#25)
by xah on Sun May 07, 2000 at 07:28:15 PM EST

In the CNN article quoted in the piece, a distinction is drawn between cosmetic surgery for vanity purposes and cosmetic surgery for more sympathetic purposes. The latter use, such as skin grafts for burn victims, the article suggests, has been put in line behind the vanity surgeries. The medical establishment has gotten too powerful and needs a comeuppance, IMHO.

[ Parent ]
Non Profit Ha! (none / 0) (#34)
by Commienst on Mon May 08, 2000 at 10:10:39 PM EST

Last time I checked the list of people waiting for donated organs for just about every organ is extremely long. Yet rich people, especially celebrities, have no trouble at all bypassing the organ donor waiting lists.

I recall not that long ago Joe DiMaggio received a kidney transplant despite the fact the doctors said it would not improve his condition. I guess the non profit agency figures that any slim chance of saving a celebrity is worth more than just us average folks. I seriously question it is a true non profit agency we are talking about.

[ Parent ]

Re: Harvest of Corpses (5.00 / 1) (#27)
by leshert on Mon May 08, 2000 at 12:45:21 AM EST

Hmm... you're going to ensure that no needy person has the use of your organs, just on the off chance that you might make someone who doesn't need them as much has to wait another 30 seconds to get their collagen injection? Also, who's to say that both uses can't be fulfilled with the same cadaver? No pun intended, but you're cutting off your nose to spite your face.

[ Parent ]
Bah! (1.00 / 1) (#30)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon May 08, 2000 at 10:39:18 AM EST

Bah! The whole notion of "donating" corpses is pure bunk. The doctors, nurses, administrators don't "donate" their time for the procedures they perform with them. Hospitals don't "donate" services to the sick and dying. When somebody dies, the funeral services are not "donated". A transplant can cost $100,000 easily and the doner's family gets squat.

I'd be more than willing to offer my corpse after death so long as I can control where the money goes (hint: it won't be to charity). The whole notion of not being able to sell organs is more bunk or even controlling who gets them. I don't want my heart going to some fascist, jack-booted thug or say a Democrat. Well, I suppose if they were willing to pay more...

The market would likely get a lot more spare parts if people could have the proceeds go to their family. A cheap, hell, free insurance policy. As for organs being harvested by Klan of the Hand or something, puhleez.

Re: Bah! (none / 0) (#31)
by fluffy grue on Mon May 08, 2000 at 11:13:30 AM EST

Ah, but you see, patients still have to pay for the services and for the transplant itself. However, what's left over after all the transplantable organs are the things used for highly-profitable procedures, such as sexual characteristic augmentations and the like, and it seems to me that those leftovers are basically pure profit for the plastic surgeons, since they don't have to pay for the raw materials but they GET a lot of money for using them. That's the issue people have with it. People sign up to be organ donors to save lives, not to let disgustingly-proportioned people get even more disgustingly-proportioned.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Re: Harvest of Corpses (1.00 / 1) (#32)
by anonymous cowerd on Mon May 08, 2000 at 11:34:45 AM EST

A story about this issue was published in the St. Petersburg (Florida, U.S.A.) Times about three weeks ago. At least in the U.S.A., it seems that not everything is for sale to the highest bidder. By law (you know, one of those freedom-diminishing laws which Randites despise) specific organs such as hearts and kidneys are distributed by something called the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), under the supervision of the Federal Department of Health and Human Services, without regard to price offered. Cut-n-paste:

"The main factors that determine who will receive an organ are blood type, length of time on the waiting list, severity of illness and geographical location. It is illegal to buy or sell organs in the United States.

Why that's straight out of Marx: "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs." Dear me. To digress for a moment: I'm sure some of you have read Larry Niven's Jigsaw Man, right? I hear he is a big libertarian, and yet that story was a Swiftian dystopian critique of radical libertarian ideals, one which plainly found them lacking too.

Organs are apportioned by bureaucrats, but not tissues; the distribution of dead men's skin is not specifically covered by these laws. One can sell skin to the highest bidder. But the laws do specify that the companies which harvest the skin must be non-profit ones; the workaround being, for example, that one individual can own both a non-profit skin harvesting business and a for-profit skin-selling business, and he can have the non-profit harvesting firm sell its product with an exclusive contract to the for-profit marketing firm. The St. Pete Times article showed one such dual business, where the dual CEO kept the business cards for both companies in little card holders, side by side, on the same desk.

As I remember it, another charming feature of this business is that, not only do these damned Burke-n-Hare ghouls harvest your skin and make lampshades out of it - no wait I'm getting my ghouls confused - not only do they harvest your skin and sell it to plastic surgeons to fulfill the eternal-youth fantasies of the obscenely rich, but also that this competitive market in dead men's skin prices out the medical doctors who need skin to cover and heal severe burn wounds.

See, the sky's the limit, price-wise, when a Hollywood starlet wants to transform her chest into something out of a comicbook, or when an rich old fellow feels the need to get his worn-out penis reupholstered. However, usually, people being treated for severe burns are usually treated under some kind of insurance plan. Well, these insurance companies have to make a profit, don't they? and so they place a ceiling on the price they'e willing to pay per square foot of skin. In the bidding war, all the cosmetic plastic surgeons have to do is go one bid past the insurance companies's ceiling, so they win out. To summarize: since corpse-flesh gets so high a price in cosmetic plastic surgeons's boutiques, therefore burn victims do without and die.

Here in Florida one can volunteer one's own body for the use of the cosmetic surgery trade! You just fill in a little check box on the form when you go get your driver's license. Then they print the words


right on the license next to the photograph.

I'm so excited! Just think, someday I myself might be on the cover of the National Enquirer! At least a few cells of me.

Yours WKiernan@concentric.net

"This calm way of flying will suit Japan well," said Zeppelin's granddaughter, Elisabeth Veil.

Re: Harvest of Corpses (none / 0) (#33)
by benton on Mon May 08, 2000 at 01:55:19 PM EST

I registered as an organ donor, because I figured that maybe my body bits would go to help someone when I was dead. I plan to be cremated, anyway, so it isn't like there is going to be much left of me once the oven gets through with me.

If my body parts help someone, what does it really matter what use they are put to? I mean, i'm not using them anymore, so why shouldn't they be used for all that they can be rather than just being buried or burned?

On the other hand, one feels that there should be some degree of recompense for the use of my organs, but if I would give up my heart or corneas freely, what makes my ass fat or my skin or my penis any different? Because one is "cosmetic" or "nonessential"? Cadaver skin goes to make grafts for burn victims too.

(( of course, I'm up to two packs a day of cancerettes, so it isn't like there is much that my bits are worth now anyway... ))

The other argument being that if we are allowed to sell some bits, or human organs are allowed to be sold without restriction, we end up in UrbanLegendCyberpunkLand where people get nabbed on streets and harvested for kidneys.

-- benton -- bentonsmith@mediaone.net
Re: Harvest of Corpses (none / 0) (#35)
by inspire on Tue May 09, 2000 at 09:45:52 AM EST

That is so... so.. gah, I cant begin to express how fucking wrong and evil this is.
What is the helix?
Harvest of Corpses | 35 comments (35 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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