Would you still donate your loved one’s body if, instead of saving a life, parts were sold for profit, for cosmetic purposes?
May 20, 2002 9:27 AM   Subscribe

Would you still donate your loved one’s body if, instead of saving a life, parts were sold for profit, for cosmetic purposes? A Boston Herald story says the Massachusetts Medical Examiner's Office supplies a company with information about the freshly dead that lets company reps pitch grieving relatives for donations. Because of decomposition, sometimes those calls are the first news the relatives have of the death, the story says. Among other end uses: breast, lip and penis enlargements. Has the halo around organ donation blurred ethical questions around other uses for dead people?
posted by sacre_bleu (21 comments total)
Value of a pieced-out cadaver? Up to $200,000, the story says. With that kind of money at stake, no wonder companies and agencies have been tempted to simplify their presentations to families whose approvals are needed to supply the product.
posted by sacre_bleu at 9:30 AM on May 20, 2002

If the profits are being shared with the "cash stapped" medical examiner's office, why not make the profitable sale of body parts available to the "cash strapped" family of the deceased? Sounds ghoulish, but for a lot of accident victims it would make a crucual difference to their families.
posted by CINDERELLEN at 10:11 AM on May 20, 2002

Would you still donate your loved one’s body if, instead of saving a life, parts were sold for profit, for cosmetic purposes?

Donate? No. Sell? Possibly. If there's going to be profit generated, I want a portion of the profit.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:13 AM on May 20, 2002

Note to self. . . .change organ donor designation on driver's liscense to n. . .
posted by Danf at 10:22 AM on May 20, 2002

If there could be a way to make sure that donation requests were given first priority, so that organ harvesting and sale didn't restrict the availability of those organs to the highest bidder only, then yes.

It is a slippery slope, though, from here to "voluntary" sale of organs by living donors.

Can people see nothing but the profit motive any more?
posted by briank at 10:23 AM on May 20, 2002

My theory on organ donation has always been "donate as much as possible to either victims or science and burn the rest, since I don't need it anymore."

If my parts are going to go and increase someone's penis, lips or breasts, and someone will pay for them, then my family should get some sort of percentage to pay for my after-death expenses (funeral, burial, any debts my savings don't cover.)

That said, I'd much rather see my parts save someone's life, rather than be used for cosmetic purposes. But if someone wants it, they can have it.
posted by melissa at 10:31 AM on May 20, 2002

Sell organs = Felony 5years and $50,000. (US)

"Voluntary" sales are happening quite often in third world countries, I am sure they happen 'under the radar' in most developed countries too. The link is the first I could find, but this has been going on for longer than what one might imagine.

Can people see nothing but the profit motive any more?
I always wonder how cynical one can get in life. Is there an upper limit?
posted by bittennails at 10:44 AM on May 20, 2002

posted by mecran01 at 10:46 AM on May 20, 2002

It's a Krusty Kinda Khristmas, brought to you by ILG: selling your body's chemicals after you die. And by Li'l Sweetheart Cupcakes -- a subsidiary of ILG.

posted by Skot at 10:55 AM on May 20, 2002

I would donate parts even if they are to be sold so that dumping the loved one, even through cremation, is less costly and I can thus save some bucks to spend on my one needs to recover from the grief of loss. They outfit getting the parts is stuck with the remains for disposal.
posted by Postroad at 11:35 AM on May 20, 2002

Collagenesis is a Beverly-based medical company that turns cadaver skin into collagen
(does charlton heston impersonation:)
JULIA! ROBERTS! LIPS! ARE! (dramatic pause) PEOPLE!
posted by swell at 1:49 PM on May 20, 2002

I saw this when I picked up the paper for my mother this morning, and I was shocked and disgusted. These people should all be spending time at Concord Prison (where they used to be able to sign up for psylocibin, but now they might just get sent to Texas.
posted by lisatmh at 3:02 PM on May 20, 2002

The definitive investigation so far remains The Body Brokers, an April 2000 series by the Orange County Register. It looks very closely at the bifurcation in the industry between non-profit organ donation and for-profit body product (skin, blood) brokerage. Is the former a cover for the latter, or is the second necessary to fund the activities of the first? It's not an easy question to answer.
posted by dhartung at 4:15 PM on May 20, 2002

How can I donate my body to science fiction?
posted by ZachsMind at 4:18 PM on May 20, 2002

Selling body parts is SO WRONG. It's so obvious I'm amazed people consider it as a possibility. Oh well not really amazed, considering the amount of ignorant scum out there.

Why it's wrong ? Duh open your eyes ! Once you set a price for a body part, then welcome to a new market of body parts in which YOU are the one that's going to provide the meat.

Uhhh do I see you didn't pay your debts ? No problem pal, just sell us your spare kidney and your debt is covered. A slice of your liver can be used to clone fresh new cells, we'll give you good money. Ooopps your liver didn't recover ? Sorry that wasn't in the contract.

Oh the dead body of your grandpa is useless, it's too old. But maybe if you conceive a new children, we could use some of his fresh cells, it's just a little quick operation as soon as he/she is born. Don't worry.

Maybe your dead body may be good. Oh don't worry if we can't give it to a patient in need, we'll auction it. Accidentally somebody deleted the file with a list of all patients..guess we'll have to auction your liver again.

Don't you see the danger of that market ? Are you so brainwashed ? There are things in life that must NOT be for sale.

Again more example to help your empty brain:

1) John agrees that his partner body parts can be used for transplant to a patient that needs them to SURVIVE. Accidentally somebody leaves the organ container open..or so somebody says. Ops, it's useless. Let's sell it for $5000 to some student in some university, so they may work for on it. Mhhh price for liver just skyrocketed $7000 students ! No money, no learning ! Oh wait the dude in transplant list died, I'll give you his liver for $6500.

2) John is deep in debt. The company he was working for laid him off for some unknown reason. He is a good payer, always pays his debts, but due to some accounting error his bank account is in deep red. Bank wants its money back now, he must hire a lawyer to fight bank request. Uhm, his parents can't give him much money. The trial goes on, lots of money and in the meanwhile he becomes sick because of some weird virus. More debts, he didn't pay his insurance premium, more fight with insurance company.

But during the medical exam the beauty of his kindneys is discovered. John got a family that needs money, you know man, you must help them. Why don't you simply sell us your spare kindney ? It's quick, easy, and you're life will not be ruined. You're already a desperate, pathetic, miserable man in a mountain of debts...a kindey at it's all over !

It is NOT science fiction, that's exactly what will happen if we're going to allow people to sell organs, doesn't matter if from a dead body or a lively one. There must be NO market for that. Market isn't always the best answer, it's just a shortcut for people with a lot of money. And you don't have enough, scum !
posted by elpapacito at 6:30 PM on May 20, 2002

that's exactly what will happen if we're going to allow people to sell organs
When people talk about not allowing things that have nothing to do with them, it sets off all sorts of alarms for me. I worry about stuff like that far more than I fear adults making decisions about their own lives. In the end, I won't much care what you believe I should be allowed to do, and I will do what I think is best for me. That is what I believe is the beauty of modern society.
posted by thirteen at 9:41 PM on May 20, 2002

elpapacito: Your first scenario could happen now, and I see no reason to prevent the second one from happening, if that's what the parties involved want.
posted by bingo at 10:08 PM on May 20, 2002

Thirteen: of course you're allowed to do whatever you want, and that's a good point of the modern society. You could as well start a black market for organs if some law is passed against "your freedom to sell organs" , of course you're free, to fail and or to be successful. But always remember freedom comes at a price, it's not free itself. No law = Anarchy. Because there is people, much meaner then you, that doesn't care about freedom, expecially yours and they use the argument "X is wrong because you're not free to do Y" that isn't logical, it's just propaganda.

Bingo: The first one , you're right, it's already happening. I knew a girl whose father , may his soul if any rot in hell now that's he dead, worked in a obituary and regularly sold body part to students with enough money, without even asking for permission. After that the body is "closed" few relatives care to see if something is missing, so he tought and he was right. But what he did is wrong, isn't it ?

The second scenario : the guy John can't choose. It's not enough of a reason to say that they both wanted that. John didn't have a chance, either pay or suffer the consequences, and remember he didn't want all that trouble, it all started from an error. Now assuming that there is a price for organs, the pressure on him to sell, from creditors, bank , family etc would be immense. And the poor John bails out with the only option he can see, selling an organ. And that doesn't end on Metafilter or mass media because , wow, it's no news everybody is doing that. Can you see how grossly inhuman is that ? You're no longer allowed to live at least with all your body part, you must sell them or suffer economical consequences.
posted by elpapacito at 3:11 AM on May 21, 2002

To what base uses we may return, Horatio! Why may not imagination trace the noble dust of Alexander, till he find it stopping a bung-hole?
posted by pracowity at 3:16 AM on May 21, 2002

Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me! You would play upon me, you would seem to know my stops, you would pluck out the heart of my mystery, you would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass; and there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ, yet cannot you make it [speak. ’Sblood,] do you think that I am easier to be play’d on than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, you cannot play upon me.
posted by elpapacito at 3:57 AM on May 21, 2002

Thirteen, the whole point is that you are *not* getting a choice here. Corrupt officials who we are supposed to trust to treat the bodies of our loved ones with respect are getting the choice. That's what stinks. Nowhere -- No. Where. Did the people who are having tissue harvested for profit ever get a chance to say no. Nor did they recieve any of the benefits. In a way, I agree with you, because if you really did have choices that were being enforced by law then I would have the choice not to participate. Right now neither of us has any choice.
posted by lisatmh at 7:06 AM on May 21, 2002

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