Dutch hospitals don’t trust US “body brokers” anymore

A bad hand.
A bad hand.
Image: AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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US companies that collect human corpses donated to science, dissect them, and sell body parts internationally for profit are facing international scrutiny after a Reuters report raised ethical and medical concerns over business practices.

Two Dutch hospitals, the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam and the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, said they’ll stop buying body parts for training and research from two American companies. Reuters reported that one, MedCure, is under FBI investigation for potentially selling tainted body parts in Canada and Hong Kong, and the other, Science Care, drummed up business by recruiting donors from hospices and retirement facilities. One incentive offered by brokers is free cremation in exchange for donating a body.

Holland has laws on donated organs, but none pertaining to body parts used for training or research. While people traditionally offer their dead bodies freely for medical research and training, brokers can profit handsomely by separating certain body parts and selling them internationally. Shipping documents reviewed by Reuters suggest MedCure shipped $500,000 in body parts to the Netherlands from 2012 to 2016.

Meanwhile Science Care allegedly underreported the cost of a human head on customs documents, declaring it was worth $25 when its true market value in the US would have been $500, according to Reuters. When contacted for the story, an Academic Medical Center professor whose department bought heads from Science Care said the company’s practice of recruiting donors and profiting from the sale was unacceptable, and that the department would stop ordering from the firm.