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The Body Brokers

We recently looked at body farms and how bodies were donated to these facilities for research in the United States. This is all above board, highly regulated, and legal.

Unfortunately, some people like to cut corners, and bodies are donated illegally. One case that received worldwide media attention was that of Jim Stauffer and his mother Doris. Doris died of dementia in 2013 aged 74. Jim decided to donate her brain to help find a cure for the awful disease that had taken his mother’s life.

He contacted a local company – Biological Resource Centre (BRC) a company that brokered the donation of human bodies for research. Jim signed all the forms for the release of his mother’s body, on this form he prohibited military, traffic safety, and other nonmedical experiments on his mother’s remains.

Two weeks later, Jim received his mother’s ashes, how her body was used was not specified. Following an investigation into the company, the ashes Jim received were only that of his mother’s severed hand. BRC sold Doris’ body for over £5,000 for a taxpayer-funded research project with the US army. Her brain was never used for Alzheimer’s research as was intended.

Instead, her remains were used to measure the damage caused by roadside bombs. Over 20 other bodies were used alongside Doris in this explosive test. Army representatives say they did not receive consent forms from the family but instead relied on BRC that the families were consenting to such experiments.

BRC is now no longer in business and its founder has been found guilty of fraud. The company sold more than 20,000 body parts and 5,000 full human remains to further experiments such as this with the US army. This act goes totally against the wishes of the family who so selflessly donated their loved ones to enrich medical science and research. Instead, their bodies were mutilated in explosions.

The laws regarding human remains are bleak in the United States. It is technically not illegal to sell a body or body parts for research or education. These brokers are a huge business in America as they can procure a body for free from a grieving family and sell them on then for profit, unknowingly to the family.

This would not occur at all here in the UK due to our strict laws regarding human remains. The anatomy act of 1984 and the human tissues act of 2006 provide strict rules and regulations regarding the donations and use of human bodies for research and science. It is unfortunate how bleak the regulations are in America as the families do not know what horrific acts are being performed on their loved ones.


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