An investigation by Reuters news agency has uncovered the shocking news than an American company has made huge profits from selling human organs and other body parts donated to science, for surgical transplant purposes, often without the knowledge of relatives. Under US law it is legal though many people question the ethics involved. It would not be the first time doctors’ enthusiasm for turning us into Frankenstein monsters has run into ethical problems. A few years ago a plan in the UK to replace failing human organs with healthy ones from pigs ended in disaster.
This latest scheme, launched in 2008 by Arizona based Science Care Inc. had the goal of to maximizing profits from the sale of human bodies donated to science. The company’s model for ensuring quality was based on the McDonald’s Corp business plan.
The company promised to provide customers, i.e. the transplan surgery teams of hospital groups linked to the USA’s private healthcare system, with the same cuts from cadavers no matter which Science Care branch handled the order. Company boss James Rogers cited production methods perfected by Ray Kroc, the visionary who turned a hamburger stand into a fast-food empire, according to a Science Care executive turned whistleblower.
“He used the McDonald’s analogy that no matter where you go, you get the same exact thing,” the executive, former quality assurance director John Cover, said in a sworn statement.
“It was all about quality,” Cover said when interviewed for the Reuters investigation. “When you get a Big Mac, it’s going to taste like a Big Mac, whether you’re in Louisiana or San Francisco.”
Instead of selling hamburgers and nuggets however, Science Care has made millions from human body parts according to Reuters report of its investigation, titled The Body Trade.
According to its own website Science Care, along with its subsidiaries, serves as “a link between individual donors and medical researchers and educators”. It also promises cremation at no cost to the donors or their families.
Body donation differs from organ donation which is closely linked to lifesaving procedures such as when a patient receives a heart or a kidney from the recently deceased. Organ donation is strictly controlled in the US, and selling organs and other body parts for transplant is against the law. Body donation provides material for medical research and training mainly in universities.
Science Care doesn’t break the law, as US regulations don’t prohibit doing whatever you want with corpses donated to science. Science Care is free to sell or lease the bodies and their parts, torsos, heads or limbs. Families of people whose bodies are donated will, however, be shocked to learn their loved ones bodies are not being used for valuable research, but “harvested” like a wrecked car for useful parts that will be sold for profit.
Science Care obtains many of its bodies from hospices caring for the poor and from needy families who cannot afford funerals. Body donation commonly saves families lots of money. A funeral including the cost of a coffin, the memorial service, and burial, may cost a family $7,000, while the price for a simple cremation, which is getting increasingly popular, comes in at $1,000.