… The truth behind organ donation & organ transplants
The Nasty Side of Organ Transplanting.
Organ transplant interests complain that vital organ donations haven’t risen for the past ten years. This is true. Prospective customers aren’t shooting or knifing each other as frequently as in the good old days. Car seat belts and breath testing have dented the flow of brain-injured candidates. Better neurosurgery for stroke victims is reducing another source of donors.
But there is a hidden industry for which statistics aren’t publicly presented and to which donation agencies feign ignorance. The reader might test their local organ donation centre on this issue.
There is a huge worldwide market for completely dead donors whose hearts and everything else has stopped. They are really dead. Their vital organs are rarely used due to decomposition and damage during the dying process. Yet these cold bodies still provide raw material for surgical activities ranging from heart valve replacements to cosmetic surgery.
The American dead body processing industry is far more advanced than the Australian but demand for our cosmetic and surgical techniques is on par with the Americans. Our industry is fed with imported body products salvaged from American bodies. Our demand for cadaver products encourages Americans to aggressively harvest their own citizens. Australians are indirectly responsible for this strange American activity.
In 1998 Clinton Administration legislation forced United States hospitals that receive Medicare payments to pressure relatives of the deceased to sign voluntary donation consent forms. This increased cardiac dead harvesting in the United States 172% over five years to 20,000 bodies annually or three and a half times the number of vital organ donors.
This isn’t a joke. A single donor body can provide the raw material to generate products selling for US$220,000 wholesale. When adding surgical fitting costs it can reach one million dollars. If the donor also supplied vital organs the amount generated by one body is two million dollars. Most of us are worth more dead than alive. More than a herd of cattle or fifty-thousand chickens.
Our dead bodies are a market commodity and a factor motivating transplant coordinators to pressure relatives to release their next of kin for harvesting. A hungry market raises prices so the body parts industry aggressively lobbies governments, manipulates public opinion and funds donor promotion registries.
When a person is burnt from exploding fuel in a car smash, or a pan of oil slips off the stove onto their leg then the skin is destroyed leaving exposed flesh vulnerable to infection. Cadaver skin placed over the wound protects the body and facilitates the replacement of the patient’s own skin.
Harvested skin is also used to cover holes left by tumours and make internal slings to support bladders of those with urinary incontinence thus alleviating the need for adult nappies. More skin comes from the obese and less from midgets and thin people though on average skin from one donor fetches $3600 when used to treat burns victims.
Twenty thousand cardiac dead donors annually in the United States would provide more than adequate quantities of skin for medical purposes, but there is a continuous shortage because of corruption. Non-profit body donation Foundations receive the bodies for free then pass them on at a token price to cosmetic companies who set up the Foundations in the first instance. The processed skin from one body, worth $3600 when used for burns victims, is instead transformed into cosmetic surgery products which sell for $36,000 wholesale. This business practice means that burns victims don’t get the cadaver skin. Instead, surgeons strip skin from the burns patients' living relatives who, despite full anaesthetic, say it is the most painful experience they've had.
LifeCell Corporation uses donated cadaver skin to produces Alloderm, a plastic surgery product used to reconstruct eyelids for older women who want to look younger and sexier. Other uses include reducing or enlarging breast size and thickening penises.
Have you ever wondered how movie stars or aging TV newsreaders have so few wrinkles or the women display such big pouting lips? Collagenesis, Incorporated of Massachusetts, uses cadaver skin to make an injectable gel called Dermalogen. Cosmetic surgeons will, for $1000 a shot, inject Dermalogen to fatten lips or reduce wrinkles and laugh lines by puffing up the skin. The benefit of Dermalogen is that the body doesn’t break it down so repair jobs are less frequently needed. The drawback with this injected cadaver skin is its permanent nature. Ghastly mistakes are hard to fix as evidenced by a number of freaky-looking TV personalities whose faces look like clown masks.
Alloderm and Dermalogen compete with similar products cultured from the bugs living in the fluid of arthritis sufferers' swollen joints. The “stuff” is injected into the face puffing it up like arthritic fingers thus taking away the wrinkles. The body absorbs the “stuff” and the expensive injections must be repeated every six to twelve months. Similarly, cowhides are made into a collagen and pumped into wrinkly faces. Allergen makes Botox, another wrinkle reducer, from botulinum toxin A, which is related to botulism. It paralyses facial muscles to stop those natural facial movements that cause wrinkles.
Have you ever admired the thighs of scantily clad move stars? Fascia Biosystems of Beverly Hills, California sell a trademark thigh tissue to cosmetic surgeons. Fascia lata is the connective tissue holding thigh muscles together. Fascia is transplanted from the corpse to movie stars, which may explain those incredibly firm and tight bodies.
Football and sports heroes don’t miss out on the cannibal trade. Ten of a corpse’s tendons bring $20,000 (the Achilles and patella come with bone still attached). Knee cartilage is worth $14,000. When an Australian Football League player breaks a tendon or wrecks a knee he is off to the morgue for spare parts. A humerus fetches $28,000. Need a varicose vein job? Saphenous and Femoral veins are used for varicose vein and blood vessel reconstruction and sell for $14,000. Corneas, the clear part of the eye that covers the coloured part, fetch $2400 a pair. Heart valves are $7000 each from a heart costing Cryolife or other valve collectors less than $1000 from the non-profit Foundation, which they have usually set up as a front to obtain cheap or free corpses.
We may think the blood and bone people dealing in human body parts are from a Jeffrey Dahmer style murder trial, but it is technology and market demand that has created the impetus for this industry. The market is hungry for body pieces so the industry relentlessly pressures governments for increased access to corpses. They'll hire slick advertising people to portray this form of cannibalism in the most heart-warming manner making people feel greedy if they don't give the sometimes still warm bodies of their deceased next of kin to the harvesters.
The human body has 206 separate bones most of which will fetch a reasonable price, but it is the processing and transplanting stage where the biggest profits are made.
Bones are deep-frozen or freeze dried at 92 degrees below zero Fahrenheit
(<71C), which ensures a five-year Use-By period The first stages of bone processing are so simple that some American doctors have taken cadavers home and removed the bones in their garages. Bones are later irradiated to minimise rejection and increase storage times. They're often stored for six-months to allow time to perform disease checks. Living donors via amputations and hip replacement surgery are observed for this period to see they fall ill from certain infectious diseases. If they're still okay after six months the bones are used.
When you consider the diseases that may be transmitted by the natural procreative sexual act then incorporating another person’s body part inside oneself permanently is like opening a floodgate to new infection possibilities. Donors may have been unaware they carried the Hepatitis virus; Creutzfeldt-Jakob prions, (similar to Mad Cow Disease); the Epstein-Barr virus that causes glandular fever; HIV-AIDS; cancer; you name it.
Young donors with strong vibrant bones fetch high prices while the porous bones of older woman are ground up for dental dust, which gives a new twist to the term “ladies powder room”. Harvesters want every human bone, which indicates the challenge to morticians at open casket funerals and the delight of plastic medical pipe suppliers.
Carpentry shops cut and grind human bones into specially manufactured parts for hospital and dental surgeries. These include bone chips (looking like grated parmesan cheese), screws made from bones, wedges, spears, blocks and a large range of custom made parts used to reconstruct, patch or replace the effects of injuries and illness suffered by living humans. Bones are also made into bone putty.
Osteotech, Inc makes a bone putty costing US$853 for two teaspoons that is used to patch up bone cracks in living humans. Larger cracks are mended using a chip and putty blend. Crushed bones help fuse together ceramic and bone during hip replacement surgery.
Regeneration Technologies, Inc (RTI) in Florida also manufactures a bone putty called Regenafil. It’s also made from human bones mixed with a gelatin-carrier base sourced from pigs. And they do a roaring business processing up to 4000 bodies a year using similar cutting machines that Boeing and Lockheed Martin use to cut aluminum. RTI doesn't offer factory tours for school classes.
Demineralised human bone is ground into “dental dust” and used to improve healing after tooth extractions, spinal fusions and minor surgery. Like bone putty this “dust” is made by removing the 70% mineral content from bone leaving the 12 morphogenic collagen and non-collagenous proteins.
Dentists spray this “dust” onto healthy exposed bone after grinding out rotting teeth and jawbone. This speeds up healing.
It also helps fuse bones together when transplanting bone material from a corpse to a living patient. It also fuses worn vertebrae and other joint bones to stop movement and associated pain. Dental dust’s popularity hasn’t suffered despite a problem with the transferal of HIV-AIDS, a problem reportedly solved.
One might wonder where business, donation agencies and hospitals merge in this creeping neo-cannibalism. Government hospitals are often reluctant players. Most doctors and nurses are dedicated to the Hippocratic ideal not to harm patients yet the act of cutting out a healthy (and it must be healthy) beating heart from an injured patient isn’t exactly First Aid. Some wish organ harvesting hadn't been developed.
Hospital staff usually avoid the skin and bone harvesting that is done by a less skilled team from a euphemistically entitled Tissue Bank. Compared to vital organ harvesting their work resembles a butchering job and is usually performed at the Tissue Bank.
American Tissue Banks operate like the non-profit Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation. It’s the largest body procurer in the U.S.A., theoretically operating as a benevolent society but actually a front organisation specifically set-up in 1987 by Osteotech, Incorporated. The Foundation obtains bodies free of charge then transfers them to Osteotech for tiny prices that then process each body into hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of products. The Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation produces a catalogue listing 650 body parts products for sale. They aren't alone because virtually every American body procuring benevolent foundation is a secret agent for a private company.
Australians use more subterfuge and hide their body parts businesses within government science and educational institutions. The Donor Tissue Bank of Victoria discreetly operates as a business within Monash University and the New South Wales Bone Bank hides out at St George Hospital in Kogarah. An Australian characteristic is using the guise of medical post-mortems to remove body parts unlike the American model where relatives are directly approached to donate the body.
Australian harvesting for non-vital body components is bureaucratically cumbersome. There are strict disease controls that slow down the procurement of body parts and these are used by dissidents within the medical profession and government.
The South Australian Tissue Bank operates under cover of the Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science in Adelaide. It’s amongst a cluster of buildings that includes the Royal Adelaide Hospital. One employee told me that harvesting was limited because bureaucrat impediments slow down the bodies passing through each level of hospital bureaucracy on their way to the harvest room. A single delay may push the body beyond the 24-hour harvest window after death. Disease fears are another factor and one freezer contains bones rejected due to respiratory flora contamination: someone breathed on them. “In the fridge behind the wall,” my informant advised me.
These impediments insured that just four bodies were harvested for bones in the first eight months of 2006 and just one in 2005.This is from a population of 1.5 million people with almost half registered as organ donors and from which two dozen “brain dead” donors are harvested annually. Consequently, there are “more requests [for bones] than donations” so bones are obtained via amputations and hip replacement surgery.
The New South Wales State government in Australia had this same problem so they adopted the American model. Special legislation allows non-doctors from the government-owned New South Wales Bone Bank to harvest bones from bodies supplied by the Glebe Institute of Forensic Medicine, also known as the Sydney City Morgue.
The Bone Bank sends these bones in cooler boxes to the commercial outfit, Australian BioTechnologies, which operates out of the northern Sydney suburb of Frenchs Forest. They grind these bones into shapes for transplanting and process the shavings into bone putty then sell these products back to the New South Wales Bone Bank. This bypasses the medical establishment, which can no longer obstruct “progress”.
Our predicament is that we have a medical industry on which over 500 surgical procedures depend on human body products. National governments fund this medical industry and while this continues our wellbeing will remain dependent on a form of cannibalism that we euphemistically call “body parts recycling” or the “gift of life”. It isn't pretty and some say it isn't a particularly efficient system of maintaining health.
Aaron Vowles was twelve-years old in 1994 when he and his brother were emptying a compressed gas cylinder one evening in their Adelaide backyard. A gentle wind pushed the gas cloud into the pilot light of an outdoor water heater. The fireball melted Aaron’s nylon tracksuit burning sixty-four percent of his skin which turned black and fell off. Doctors put Aaron into an induced coma but he still suffered a cardiac arrest.
Aaron needed cadaver skin to cover his burnt body and protect him against infection until his own body rebuilt skin cover. There wasn't any skin available despite South Australia’s aggressive harvesting program of “brain-dead” organ donors.
Aaron’s brother, Damon, and their father entered hospital to have skin stripped from their bodies. Damon told me it was the most painful experience he'd ever had and all the anaesthetic and other painkillers didn't work.
Accessed 1 May 2007
Accessed 1 May 2007
 The Pharmacy Guild of Australia logo appears twice on the Australian government’s 2007 Organ Donor Register consent card and promotion material. Next to one logo the following words appear: “Proudly supported by The Pharmacy Guild of Australia”.
Glaxo-Wellcome(now known as Glaxo-Smith-Kline) has funded the Victorian Donor Registry in Australia with $400,000.
Fujisawa, who manufacture Tacrolimus under the tradename Prograf, fund production of What Every Patient Needs To Know, a publication of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) the world’s largest organ allocation and transplant promotion organisation. UNOS holds the government contracted monopoly on organ allocation for the whole of the United States. The booklet includes finding a transplant team with a high survival rate, maximising government and insurance payments and, if you don’t have enough money, asking for donations from churches, service groups and contacting media to run sad case stories and running charity fundraising campaigns with you as the principal beneficiary.
On page one it says, “UNOS gratefully acknowledges Fujisawa HealthCare, Inc. whose generous education grant made possible the production of What Every Patient Needs to Know.” But why does Fujisawa so kindly provide funding for UNOS, well, the booklet doesn’t mention this but UNOS owns a shadow organisation called the UNOS Foundation which itself owns something called Transplant Informatics Institute run by UNOS staffers which analyses and sells organ network data to guess who, Fujisawa HealthCare which wants their product, Tacrolimus, to replace the current favourite, Cyclosporin, which is produced by rival drug company, Novartis.
Drug companies sponsoring organ allocation and donor promotion organisations isn’t unusual, but perhaps the dubious aspect is UNOS thanking Fujisawa thus creating the impression it is a gift rather than a commercial trade agreement between businesses.
And what else does the booklet tell us? Cyclosporin, the most popular anti-rejection drug made by rival company, Novartis, is merely “A drug” which suppresses “the body’s defence system” while the less popular Tacrolimis (Prograf), produced by Fujisawa, is “A powerful immunosuppressant” which “turns down the body’s immune response” It pays to give money to UNOS. (see page 8 and 10 of the booklet)
Accessed 1 May 2007
Another product is Restylane; a non-animal stabilised Hyaluronic Acid, which is injected into the lips. It is made from culturing in-vitro cells removed from the swollen joints associated with arthritis. Cosmetic technicians inject Restylane into the face causing arthritic swelling, which removes wrinkles. It can also be used to swell thin, cruel lips making them look pouting and attractive. It costs $395 and lasts one year. Yet another wrinkle reducer is made from botulism. It paralyses the facial muscle so the customer can’t smile or grimace nor produce laugh lines.
These products are advertised in glossy magazines devoted to the subject of cosmetic surgical procedures and include bum implants for men who want their buttocks to stick out. Much of the transplant industry feeds neurosis and wastes resources that should go to preventative medicine and medical help for poorer people of the world. Who would want a bum implant, anyway?
Accessed 1 May 2007
Accessed 1 May 2007
 Cheney, Annie. Body Brokers: inside the underground trade in human remains. Broadway Books, New York, U.S.A. 2006 p 189
Accessed 1 May 2007
Accessed 1 May 2007
 Grasby, Dallas. Tissue Bank of South Australia. Frome Road, Adelaide. Personal communication with the author. August 2006
 Adelaide Advertiser Newspaper, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia. 7 January, 2002
 Vowles, Damon. Personal communication with the author.