Saturday, December 6, 2014

Organ Donors: Dead Body Parts Are Like Modern Day Chop Shops

A few nights ago American Greed aired an episode about a New Jersey doctor, Michael Mastromarino, who was convicted of illegally harvesting human bones, organs, tissue, and other body parts from corpses awaiting cremation or burial.  Medical companies purchased the parts for big money.  The doctor had a few staff members who would cut into the dead bodies, take the parts that they could sell, and then sew up the corpse once finished. They provided fake donor agreements as justification for their theft.

The doctor purchased bodies from funeral homes for up to $1000 per body.  Sometimes he would order his crew to replace the bones with PVC piping, a move that eventually got him arrested. He and his crew did not test the corpses for cancer, HIV, or any disease that could infect a recipient.  Several living recipients accused Mastromarino's company of negligence and the direct cause of their new diseases/infections.
This got me thinking.  We all know that we can donate our body parts, but what about selling them off?  Why not cut out the middle man (the harvester) and sell them wholesale or directly to the hospitals? Yes, quite a gruesome thought during the holiday season, but what else would you expect from a horror writer?
Notice the PVC piping.
Legally speaking, a dead body is the legal property of the deceased's relatives or beneficiaries.  So that should mean the ones who inherit the body have the right to sell the parts just like they have the right to sell off the deceased's house or car or stock or bond or whatever.  Interestingly, the government doesn't see it that way.  Unless the corpse while living makes her/his wishes crystal clear, the government can take the organs and do what they want once the corpse at one point during life checks off on being a donor.
What usually happens is the government gives the corpse to doctors and hospitals who in turn make money off of the parts while harvesting the organs and implanting them in patients.  Organ transportation companies also get their fair share of the profits; and the families of the deceased get nothing.
So why be an organ donor?  I suppose on some level it doesn't matter.  Someone like Dr. Mastromarino can just steal the body parts, provide phony documentation, and then have the body cremated without anyone knowing.  I doubt he is the only one who has thought of this scam.  But for those who play by the rules and get possession of legitimate donors, why shouldn't the family be compensated? Shouldn't families of the dead or even the living have the right to sell off organs?  Leave a comment.  Love to know what you think. 

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