“Medical Terrorists” – Body Part Snatchers

There appears to be a growing trend of “body snatching,” which includes illegally removing human tissue from cadavers and selling the tissue to firms that process it for medical facilities and researchers. As a result, the usual safety screening procedures that take place for the donation of body parts are not performed and there is a growing concern that the procured tissue is tainted.

In fact, this black market business has caused many tissue recipients to receive infected and diseased tissue. Both the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are insisting that those who have received tissue be tested for a multitude of diseases. Along with the obvious moral and legal problems “body snatching” poses, there are also large health concerns for the recipients of tissue that is received through this process, as the usual screening procedures are not performed.

It is no surprise that various recipients are now concerned that they have received contaminated tissue and the families of the unsuspecting donors are horrified that their loved ones have been treated in such an inhumane manner. There have been estimates that across the nation, 18,000 to 19,000 individuals have possibly been infected with contaminated tissue.

What has happened is clearly at odds with the cornerstone of the human tissue industry which is supposed to be safe and require that all participating human tissue go through extensive screening. Both criminal charges and civil claims have been brought for practicing what has been deemed “medical terrorism.” This includes charges for the improper removal of human tissue from cadavers, falsifying donor records, death certificates and forms of consent. In fact, some firms have tried to get away with this “black market in body parts” by placing pipes, broomsticks, socks and gloves in the bodies of cadavers that were set for open casket.

While Congress is trying to do more to protect future donors and recipients from being victimized in this industry, the fact that this trend is emerging raises the concern that not enough is being done. The incentive to pursue “medical terrorism” is disarmingly strong inasmuch as personal injury lawyers pursuing these cases suppose that a human body can be worth $250,000 and the human tissue industry is for the most part unregulated. Hence, Senator Schumer of New York hopes to regulate the industry more tightly, and has proposed that the FDA should certify tissue firms in a formal manner, perform unannounced inspections, require informed consent from donor’s families and the like.

Change is surely needed as the current regime does not adequately take care of the recipients and the donors and their families and instead places the money and the power in the hands of people and companies that can likely abuse the system and became another “terrorist.” Recent cases have held that a patient does not have any ownership rights in the cells provided for research, demonstrates that the shift of power needs to be altered.

The rationale behind the court’s decision appeared to be in the name of advancing medical research but this is rationale can be a slippery slope. The personal injury lawyers at Levine & Slavit handle medical malpractice cases in New York City, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and surrounding areas. For 50 years spanning 3 generations, we have obtained results for satisfied clients. If you think that you or someone close to you may be a victim of dental or medical malpractice, contact the offices of Levine & Slavit in New York or Long Island for their help.

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