Economía 27-10-2017

Heads at 500 dollars: Reuters delves into the successful US body market.

An investigation by the agency reveals how a virtually unregulated market operates where corpses and different parts of human bodies are sold to the highest bidder.

In U.S.A. there is a successful and largely unregulated market where corpses and parts of human bodies are sold, especially from poor families, a Reuters research has revealed. Here are some key findings.

¿How does it work?

Intermediary companies generally offer grieving families free cremation of the remains of the deceased in exchange for donating some organs to "advanced medical studies." When they receive the corpses, they dissect and sell different pieces.

This scheme is widespread in most US states, especially among low-income families who can not afford a traditional funeral.

According to Reuters, this is a virtually unregulated market, unlike the organ and tissue transplant industry, which the US Government controls closely. So, while selling hearts, kidneys and tendons for transplants is illegal, no federal law governs the sale of corpses or parts of the body for use in research or education. Few state laws offer any supervision, so that almost anyone, regardless of experience, can dissect and sell fragments of human bodies.

¿Who buys them?

Corpses and body parts are used to train medical students, doctors, nurses and dentists, while researchers use them to develop new surgical instruments, techniques and implants, as well as drugs and treatments for diseases.

However, due to the little existing regulation, in most states anyone can buy parts of human bodies legally. In fact, a Reuters reporter attempted to make a purchase of this type to determine how easily it could be done, and a Tennessee company sold him a cervical spine and two human heads after a brief exchange of emails.

¿ How much they cost?

As with any product, prices vary according to market conditions. In general, a company can sell a complete human body for between $ 3,000 and $ 5,000, although prices sometimes exceed 10,000. The usual thing, however, is for the company to divide a corpse into parts, which according to the internal documents of seven companies, have this price range:

• $ 3,575 for a torso with legs;

• $ 500 for a head;

• $ 350 for one foot;

• $ 300 for a spine.

¿ How much do the brokers earn?

Through interviews and public records, Reuters identified 34 active US intermediary companies. during the last five years. 25 of them were for-profit corporations, while the rest were non-profit organizations.

In just three years, one of these companies earned at least $ 12.5 million.

Brokers oscillate in size, from small family businesses to nationwide companies with offices in several states.

Because only four states control donations and sales, the breadth of this market remains unknown.

But by analyzing the data obtained under the public registration laws of those states - New York, Virginia, Oklahoma and Florida - the agency estimated that between 2011 and 2015, private brokers received at least 50,000 bodies and distributed more than 182,000 parts of bodies.