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Grandma's Worth More Than a 100k, Maybe More

Grandma's Worth More Than a Hundred Grand, Maybe More

By Norma Sherry

Grave robbers are back. Unlike the ghouls of the 1800’s who were caked in mud and slithered about cloaked in the dark of night today’s ghouls wear Armani and Rolex watches and prance about in the hollowed halls of modern day morgues, the finest universities, the best hospitals, and mortuary offices everywhere. Unlike yesterday’s loathsome stealers of bodies nowadays they are more likely the neighborhood mortician or hospital administrator or university professor.

Money rules. The FDA turns a blind-eye and tweaks its neck in another direction. Legislators succumb to the power brokers. Families and the dearly departed believe they are selfless contributors to the betterment of science and humankind. But, the truth more often than most of us are willing to acknowledge, is that they are being duped.

In Annie Cheney’s book, Body Brokers, she delves deeply into America’s underground trade of brokering bodies and body parts. A new, fresh body can bring in as much as $200,000 if sold off in parts. Diener’s are expert at precisely cutting off limbs, dissecting hearts and brains, even blood vessels and skin. Each cutting has a price tag. If it’s new meat, and that is how the industry views the deceased, its worth is considerably more.

An industry that is not bound by laws or legislators is permitted to run amuck. Individuals who request that their bodies be given to medical science, or loved ones whose loved one is taken suddenly and who may offer their remains to science, are unaware that the university coffers are overflowing with the bodies of the departed. Unscrupulous professors tempted by the big bucks are succumbing to the seduction of getting rich quick.

Worse yet are the body brokers who are willing to sell off parts and tissue of a diseased deceased caring less of the consequences and more about lining their own pockets. Stories of diseased-ridden bones, organs and tissue sometimes make the news. A human outcry ensues, lawmakers articulate their legal disgust, the outrage dies down, the story is forgotten, and everyone settles down and back to business as usual.

It’s become a billon-dollar business. One might rightly state that “they’re worth more dead than alive”, which brings to mind a more sinister and complex concern. Mashed up bone meal, specific bone fragments, and articulated bones are an orthopedist’s tools of the trade. Doctors, hospitals, surgeons don’t ask where these parts came from they’re just happy and relieved they’ve got them at their disposal. Without them bone replacement surgery would be non-existent. They rely on companies such as Regeneration Technologies, Inc., and the plethora of companies with names that give little clue to the layperson as to their true business: Bio-technology, Bio-medical Tissue Services, Surgical Body Forms, Science-Care Anatomical, and National Anatomical Services.

The practice of utilizing tissue, bone, and muscle from the deceased is not relegated to the Orthopod. The plastic surgeon may use cadaver skin to puff up a thin lip or fill in a jaw line; a dentist uses ground up bone to fill in teeth. An ophthalmologist may use a cadaver Cornea to repair vision. All good uses one would argue, and agreeably that’s true. The problem lies in the lie. Many, too many of the bodies used were never intended for such use, nor were they tested to be disease free.

Crematoriums have grown as an industry offering a less expensive internment for the deceased than burials and coffins and such, but as such, they’ve also become an excellent resource for the nefarious body broker. In some cases the limbs have been sliced off and sold off. After all, would a family know if they were missing a few ashes? In worse cases, families received commingled ashes of an assortment of body parts because their loved ones never saw the crematorium at all. Rather, their lot in eternity was to be sold piecemeal: one piece at a time.

Today’s bodies originally donated, unbeknownst to the families, routinely show up in fancy hotels like Trump International in Miami. Steel gurney’s line up in a row with cadavers in altered stages of decomposition and are displayed under surgical lights readied for the surgeon’s new lessons. Modern day companies of surgical equipment instruct physicians and surgeons on their latest techniques on cadavers in fancy hotels. Although spray bottles of disinfectant and room deodorizers are used, there is no denying the stench of rotting flesh. An unusual occurrence, one would think in the elegant ballroom of many noteworthy hotels. Surprisingly, it is the same ballroom, which one might visit for dinner or a wedding celebration the day after a cadaver class. The bodies are always supplied by the infamous, unregulated Body Broker.

With no end in sight for the need of fresh bodies it would seem that body brokering is a business growing steadily every day. One such corporation, RTI, or Regeneration Technologies, Inc., based in Florida is already a multi-billion dollar company who is spreading its wealth by buying up smaller companies and going international.

Willed body programs of many universities are well-intentioned, but not so true are the dieners’ whose job it is to dissect and dismember or the ill-paid professor struggling to make ends meet. Without legislation and laws protecting our dearly departed, it appears that one is worth more dead then alive. Yes, indeed the grave robber is back. He’s still a ghoul; he’s just better dressed.


© Norma Sherry 2006

Norma Sherry is an award-winning writer, co-founder of Together Forever Changing, an organization designed to enlighten and encourage citizens to fight for our liberties. She is also the producer and host of the weekly Norma Sherry Show on WQXT-TV. Norma welcomes your emails:

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