Skin And Bone: The Shadowy Trade In Human Body Parts is an eight-month project by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a global network of reporters who collaborate on in-depth investigative stories that cross national boundaries. ICIJ found the business of recycling dead humans has grown so large over the past decade that you can buy stock in publicly traded companies that rely on corpses for their raw materials. Skin and bones donated by relatives of the dead are turned into everything from bladder slings to surgical screws to material used in dentistry or plastic surgery. Distributors of the merchandise can be found in much of the world. Some are subsidiaries of billion-dollar multinational medical corporations. ICIJ discovered that patients aren’t always told that the product they are getting originated from a corpse. This led to a more complex issue – how does the industry source the raw material it uses in its products? Inquiries were conducted across 11 countries and the project was co-researched with National Public Radio and Newsday (USA), the Kiev Post (Ukraine), The Daily Slovakia (Slovakia) and La Voce della Repubblica Ceca (Czech Republic). The ICIJ’s investigation relied on more than 200 interviews with industry insiders, government officials, surgeons, lawyers, ethicists and convicted felons, as well as thousands of court documents, regulatory reports, criminal investigation findings, corporate records and internal company memos.
Part 1: Human Corpses are Prize in Global Drive for Profits: The business of recycling dead humans into medical implants has flourished. But its practices have roused concerns about how tissues are obtained and how well grieving families and transplant patients are informed about the realities and risks.
Part 2: Body Brokers Leave Trail of Questions, Corruption: Police in Hungary, Ukraine and the U.S. allege that tissue suppliers stole tissue and committed fraud and forgery in the drive to supply the industry with flesh and bone.
Part 3: Traceability Elusive in Global Trade of Human Parts: Poor accountability and inadequate safeguards prompt concerns among medical experts that products made from tissues taken from the dead could spread disease to the living.
Part 4: Abusing the ‘Gift’ of Tissue Donation: In the brave new world of tissue harvesting, the dead’s bones, skin, tendons and heart valves can be cut out and used to create medical devices that can be sold for profit around the world.
Video: Skin and Bone: the Shadowy Trade in Human Body Parts