by Hilary White

FORT LEE, March 17, 2006 ( – The US firm, Biomedical Tissue Services (BTS) of Fort Lee, N.J., is accused of collecting thousands of body parts without donor consent.

BTS owner, Michael Mastromarino, has been charged with three other men with secretly harvesting body parts from corpses, some of which are feared to have been tainted with diseases. The parts were then sold to a number of tissue distributors around the US. One distributor, Medtronic Inc., reported that at least 8,000 pieces that came from BTS were implanted.

The Food and Drug Administration has said it is concerned that many of the parts could have been infected with AIDS virus, syphilis and hepatitis.

The FDA announced that their investigation of BTW “revealed serious and widespread deficiencies in their manufacturing practices that provide the agency reason to believe that allowing the firm to manufacture would present a danger to public health by increasing the risk of communicable disease transmission.”

The general lowering of ethical standards in medicine and medical research has created an open field for trafficking in body parts from vulnerable persons. Enormous moneyed interests are at work in providing human tissue for bio-medical, pharmaceutical and even cosmetics research. With the huge demographic bump of the “boomer” generation moving into old age, the demand for life-prolonging transplants is rising dramatically.

More efficient freezing and storage technology has allowed the trade to go international.

Chinese officials admitted in December 2005, that prisoners – many of whom are jailed for political reasons – were being used as ready-made organ farms in a legal system that executes more criminals than any other country. The Times reported that in China, a liver sells to a foreign recipient for approximately $41,000 US.

In September 2003, reported that surgeons in Russia had been removing kidneys from homeless people in illegal organ-harvesting operations. The spare parts are worth as much as $40,000 US each. One of the surgeons said that in general the people from whom the parts were stolen, “are done for anyway, maybe they could live another three or four days.”

Read related coverage:
  China Admits to Sale of Organs from Prisoners

Questions Answered on Organ Donation: Interview with Dr. John B. Shea M.D.

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