Inside the corpse-harvesting industry

The Sydney Morning Herald published a fascinating investigation into the global trade in human remains for medical purposes, from surgical glue made from ground-up bone to cadaver skin used in nose enhancements. From SMH:

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Despite its growth, the tissue trade has largely escaped public scrutiny. This is thanks in part to less-than-aggressive official oversight — and to popular appeal for the idea of allowing the dead to help the living survive and thrive.

An eight-month, 11-country investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has found, however, that the tissue industry's good intentions sometimes are in conflict with the rush to make money from the dead.

Inadequate safeguards are in place to ensure all tissue used by the industry is obtained legally and ethically, ICIJ discovered from hundreds of interviews and thousands of pages of public documents obtained through records requests in six countries.

Despite concerns by doctors that the lightly regulated trade could allow diseased tissues to infect transplant recipients with hepatitis, HIV and other pathogens, authorities have done little to deal with the risks.

In contrast to tightly monitored systems for tracking intact organs such as hearts and lungs, authorities in the US and many other countries have no way to accurately trace where recycled skin and other tissues come from and where they go.

"Human corpses harvested in multimillion-dollar trade" (SMH)

"Skin and Bone: The Shadowy Trade in Human Body Parts" (ICIJ)