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Laws Prohibiting the Sale of Human Tissue Do Not Prevent Industry Profit

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Federal regulations prohibit the sale of human tissue or body parts; however, that has not stopped those in the industry from using loopholes in the law to turn huge profits. The harvesting and processing of human tissue is largely governed by the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act. This act was passed in 1968 and revised in 1987. The Act:

Explicitly prohibited the sale of human organs. Federal law expressly prohibits the sale of human tissue with the exception of blood, sperm, or human eggs.
Guaranteed the priority of a decedent’s wishes over the decedent’s family members with respect to their objections to organ donation.
Streamlined the process of completing the necessary documents to effect organ donation.
Mandated that hospitals and emergency personnel develop procedures of “routine inquiry/required request.” This provision requires hospitals to ask patients, upon admittance to the hospital, or their families, at patient’s death, about organ donation. If the patient expresses the intent to donate his or her organs, that information is added to the patient’s record.
Permitted medical examiners and coroners to provide transplantable organs from subjects of autopsies and investigations within certain conditions.

The question becomes should those in the human tissue industry be permitted to make unregulated and unlimited profits on the good graces and charitable efforts of those that consent to donate their body to science or should these companies be reigned in to either limit profits or compensate a donor’s family in exchange for the individual’s agreeing to give up their body. The notion suggests that a body has a value just as would a piece of property like a used car, but should a cadaver be considered this way or is it inappropriate for a body to be considered property at all.

[T]he question of whether we “own” our bodies must be answered soon: courts now face multiple controversies concerning the use of bits and pieces of bodies — and their derivatives — that are scattered among pathology laboratories, state hygiene laboratories, museums, archives, sperm banks, fertility clinics, and forensic DNA collections.

The bottom line is that the human tissue industry is in desperate need of guidance, oversight and regulation. Absent that, as this billion dollar industry continues to grow we will continue to see legal battles over property rights to bodies, fly by night biomedical tissue companies racing to harvest tissue, and issues of safety in the use of such tissue by the medical profession.