Showing posts with label Body Parts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Body Parts. Show all posts

August 17, 2019

Don't Look Now But Scientists have Discovered A New Human Organ

A learning story for a weekend:

Image result for interstitium organ
 New Discovery inside our bodies (photo ndtv)


Most people who’ve been jabbed by a needle know the drill: First the pierce, then the sharp, searing pain and an urge to pull away, or at least wince. While the exact circuitry behind this nearly universal reaction is not fully understood, scientists may have just found an important piece of the puzzle: a previously unknown sensory organ inside the skin.

Dubbed the nociceptive glio-neural complex, this structure is not quite like the typical picture of a complex organ like the heart or the spleen. Instead, it’s a simple organ made up of a network of cells called glial cells, which are already known to surround and support the body’s nerve cells. In this case, the glial cells form a mesh-like structure between the skin’s outer and inner layers, with filament-like protrusions that extend into the skin’s outer layer. (Also find out about a type of simple organ recently found in humans, called the interstitium.) 

              Image result for interstitium organ

Photo CNN

As the study team reports today in the journal Science, this humble organ seems to play a key role in the perception of mechanical pain—discomfort caused by pressure, pricking, and other impacts to the skin. Until now, individual cells called nociceptive fibers were thought to be the main starting points for this kind of pain. 

“We have been thinking for probably a hundred years that pain is started from nerves in the skin,” says study coauthor Patrik Ernfors, a molecular neurobiologist at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. “But what we show now is that pain can also be started in these glial cells.”

Pain progression

The team first identified this new organ in mice, and they tested its functionality by measuring the rodents’ responses to different types of pain. When the cells in the organ were turned off via gene editing, the animals had a normal response to thermal pain, or discomfort caused by heat or cold. But all of the mice showed a reduced response to mechanical pain when the glial complex was deactivated.

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The findings change the way scientists think about how pain begins and progresses—at least in mice. The scientists have not yet checked that the organ exists in humans, but Ernfors says the probability is high.

“Considering that all other previously known sensory organs in [mice] also exist in humans, it is possible if not likely that this sensory organ also is present in our skin,” he says.


How does the human body work? What roles do the digestive, reproductive, and other systems play? Learn about human anatomy and the complex processes that help your body function.

If so, the work may help inform treatments for a variety of neuropathic pain disorders, which affect an estimated 10 percent of the overall population in the U.S. and between 7 and 10 percent of the population in Europe, Ernfors says. For example, finding ways to alter this cell network may benefit people who suffer from allodynia, a condition in which the skin becomes so sensitive that even a light touch or brush can be excruciating. (Also find out about prevalence of Ekbom syndrome, the incorrect belief that bugs are biting or crawling on or under the skin.)

“This is a very appealing discovery,” says Luana Colloca, a neurophysiologist and an associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine who was not involved with the study. “It’s exciting to know that there is a system that is much more than the nociceptive fibers that we teach about to our students.”

July 23, 2018

The Heart of This Business Was to Chop Shop a Human Heart and Everything Else

This Investigative report peformed by Reuters
      EARLY DAYS: Arthur Rathburn at the University of Michigan, before he became a full-fledged body broker. REUTERS/Courtesy of Peter Yates 

(Graphic descriptions)
PHOENIX – Sam Kazemi stood over the old man’s corpse. Nearby lay pliers, a scalpel and a motorized saw designed to cut drywall and pipe.
On a busy day, Kazemi might harvest body parts from five or six people who had donated their bodies to science. On this day in November 2013, the corpse before Kazemi typified the donors who gave their remains to his employer, Biological Resource Center.
The man was a retired factory worker with a ninth-grade education. He had lived with his wife in a mobile home in Mohave Valley, Arizona, and had died six days earlier, aged 75. His name was Conrad Patrick. 
But after he died and his body was donated, Patrick became a commodity, known by the company’s initials and a number: BRC13112103. 
Reuters reviewed thousands of internal BRC records and confidential law enforcement documents containing profiles of Patrick and 2,280 other donors. The documents include invoices and inventories for thousands of body parts harvested from those people. They show how their bodies were dissected, which body parts were sent where, and why buyers obtained them. 
Kazemi helped cut up and package Patrick into seven pieces. BRC shipped Patrick’s left foot to a Chicago-area orthopedic lab. His left shoulder was sent to a Las Vegas company that holds surgical seminars. His head and his spine went to a project run by the U.S. Army. And Patrick’s “external reproductive organs” were sent to a local university. His right foot and left knee were placed in the company’s freezers, where they became part of BRC’s million-dollar inventory of flesh and bone.
For more than a year, Reuters has examined America’s body trade, a little-known and virtually unregulated industry. These businesses, which call themselves non-transplant tissue banks, are also known as body brokers. 
The operations can resemble meat-packing plants. At BRC, body parts from heads to fingernails were harvested and sold. On Saturday mornings, Kazemi taught college students how to dismember cadavers in the company lab. He also starred in a grisly training video, demonstrating how to carve out a man’s spine using a motorized saw.
The documents obtained by Reuters – along with dozens of interviews with investigators, former BRC workers and families of donors – offer an unparalleled look at how one of America’s major body brokers operated. 
The records, never before made public, also reveal how little the government or the donors themselves understood what was happening at the company, and show in graphic detail how a cadaver becomes a commodity. 
Sales invoices detail many of those transactions.

For $607, BRC sold the liver of a public school janitor to a medical-device company. The torso of a retired bank manager, bought by a Swiss research institute, fetched $3,191. A large Midwestern healthcare system paid $65 for two femoral arteries, one from a church minister. And the lower legs of a union activist were purchased by a Minnesota product-development company for $350 each.
For raw material, the industry relies in large part on people too poor to afford a funeral, offering to cremate a portion of each donated body for free. 
A Reuters analysis of BRC donor files from May 3, 2011 through January 20, 2014 confirmed how important the disadvantaged were to business. The vast majority of BRC donors came from neighborhoods where the median household income fell below the state average. Four out of five donors didn’t graduate from college, about twice the ratio of the country as a whole.
Before brokers accept a body, they typically present the donor or next of kin with a consent form. These agreements are often written in technical language that many donors and relatives say they find hard to understand. The documents give brokers the right to dismember the dead, then sell or rent body parts to medical researchers and educators, often for hundreds or thousands of dollars. At BRC, a whole body sold for $5,893, records show.
Since 2004, when a federal health panel unsuccessfully called on the U.S. government to regulate the industry, Reuters found that more than 2,357 body parts obtained by brokers from at least 1,638 people have ended up misused, abused or desecrated. 
Documents reviewed for this article indicate that those figures are vastly understated. The extent of BRC’s operation surprised even investigators who raided the Phoenix-based company in 2014.
There, agents discovered 10 tons of frozen human remains – 1,755 total body parts that included 281 heads, 241 shoulders, 337 legs and 97 spines. 
Applying a state forfeiture law, authorities hauled away the contents of BRC’s freezers, filling 142 body bags. One bag held parts from at least 36 different people. 
The seizure was so large that officials struggled to properly handle the body parts. When plans to cremate the remains stalled, officials brought three walk-in freezers to a military base and stacked the body bags inside, one atop another. Parts from 851 different people remained in those freezers for almost three years before they were cremated.
The raid on BRC was part of a broader federal probe into the suspected practices of one of its clients, Arthur Rathburn. A Detroit body broker, Rathburn has pleaded not guilty to charges of defrauding customers. During a 2013 search of Rathburn’s warehouse, federal agents found rotting body parts along with four preserved fetuses, confidential photographs reviewed by Reuters show. It is not clear how Rathburn acquired the fetuses or what he planned to do with them. He was indicted for allegedly selling diseased body parts without warning buyers. His trial is set for January.
After the BRC raid, the company went out of business. Its founder and former owner, Stephen Gore, later pleaded guilty to fraud – not for selling body parts but for misleading customers by shipping them contaminated specimens. His punishment: probation. He is expected to testify at the Rathburn trial.  
78% of body parts donors 
Do not have a college degree

Gore’s attorney, Clark Derrick, said Gore always tried to act in the best interests of his donors. “At some point the business grew exponentially, we became shorthanded, we cut some corners, and for that I apologize and make amends,” Derrick said on Gore’s behalf.
Gore housed his business in a 9,000-square-foot building once occupied by an insurance agency – a one-story facility near two interstate highways and the Phoenix airport. From 2005 until early 2014, court records show, BRC received about 5,000 human bodies and distributed more than 20,000 body parts.
As Reuters reported last year, BRC also sold body parts to U.S. Army contractors for military experiments. A Pentagon spokeswoman said BRC provided the body parts “under false pretenses,” misleading the Army that consent had been secured for donors  to be used in destructive tests.
Among the parts BRC sold for the Army experiments were the heads and spines of Conrad Patrick and Leon Small, a 71-year-old retiree who had once managed a furniture factory. 
On the consent forms Patrick and Small signed, each man checked a box stating that he did not wish to be used in military or destructive tests, records show.  
But just days after Patrick and Small died, a BRC employee called their widows and persuaded them to amend the forms so their husbands could be used by the military, according to recordings of the calls reviewed by Reuters. The widows said the calls came during a traumatic time. 
“I didn’t understand what they were talking about,” Dona Patrick said. “But I said ‘OK.’”
Bodies or parts from at least 20 BRC donors were used without their consent in Army experiments, Reuters found. Parts from Small and Patrick, however, were not. The military halted testing when it learned of the raid at BRC. 
The shoulders of both men were sent to a for-profit surgical training company in Nevada.
The widows, Karen Small and Dona Patrick, are among two dozen next of kin who said they were surprised to learn that BRC profited from a relative’s donated body. 
“They prey on people that have no money, that are poor, that have no insurance – like us,” Patrick said.
Family members of some donors said BRC employees led them to believe body donation was regulated by federal and state authorities, and that selling body parts is illegal. Based on those pitches, the relatives said they believed the remains wouldn’t be sold. In truth, there are virtually no regulations on the body trade.
“They prey on people that have no money, that are poor, that have no insurance – like us.”

Dona Patrick, whose husband donated his body to BRC
“It’s a horrible thing,” Small said. “Sick.”
In a statement to Reuters last year, Gore said his employees took “great care to ensure that donors and their families were well-informed about the processes.” Gore acknowledged at his sentencing that he relied on books and the Internet for instruction on how to handle the bodies he sold. 
In 2012, BRC hired lab technician Kazemi. He earned $21 an hour. Before joining the company, his resume shows, he spent the previous decade working as a real estate agent, a waiter at a Morton’s steakhouse and a manager for an Olive Garden restaurant. 
When he arrived at BRC, he was 35 and had just graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in kinesiology, the study of body movement. At ASU, he was a teaching assistant in an anatomy lab.
In 2013, Kazemi starred in a BRC instructional video. It opens with a jarring title, punctuated for emphasis: “Stripped Cervical Spine!”  
The video begins with a close-up of Kazemi wearing a mask, gloves, goggles and a surgical gown. Then it pulls back to reveal a body face down on a table. The man’s shoulders and arms have already been sheared off. The head lolls from side to side until Kazemi holds it still. 
With a scalpel, he makes incisions along the neck and back, then peels away the man’s skin and scalp. About seven minutes into the video, Kazemi picks up a construction saw.
“On this one,” he says of the cadaver, “we are using a sturdy, thicker 9-inch blade. You want to make sure that the blade is long enough to reach from ear to ear across the back.”
In his interview with Reuters, Kazemi described the video as clinical and “not disrespectful to donors” in any way. It was meant for internal use only, he said. Kazemi also said he did not know how BRC acquired donors or where body parts were shipped.
In hindsight, Kazemi said using a motorized saw was wrong because it cannot be cleaned well enough to avoid spreading diseases.
“Would I do something like that now that I know better? No,” Kazemi said. “But at the time, that’s what was provided to me.”
Two retired investigators for the Arizona attorney general said even veteran prosecutors recoiled when they viewed the 24-minute video.
“It was like a homemade horror movie,” said Charles Loftus, the former assistant chief agent. 

“It’s not how you treat human beings ... You don’t throw them in a bunch of body bags and then throw them into a freezer like a pile of garbage.”

Matthew Parker, former investigator with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office
“I couldn’t sleep at night after seeing that,” said Matthew Parker, another former agent who says he retired with a disability – post-traumatic stress disorder – related to his work on the case. “It looked like a junkyard chop shop where they are just ripping things apart.”
Kazemi also spent Saturdays in BRC’s lab teaching college students about dissection. 
On one Saturday in late 2013, ASU junior Emily Glynn said she showed up for her first day at the lab. She was majoring in nutrition.
“I was really surprised when I got the internship because I didn’t have any experience,” said Glynn, then 20. “Just went in the first day and learned things on the job.”
That first day, under Kazemi’s direction, interns used pliers to remove fingernails from donors, Glynn recalled. 
“I don’t want to say it was barbaric, but it was weird,” she said. “One day, I found myself holding the hand of a 70-year-old woman and felt like I needed to apologize to her, to say, ‘I’m sorry.’”

Neither Glynn nor Kazemi knew how the fingernails were used, they said, and Reuters could not locate invoices for that order. But the news agency did identify fingernails from 22 other donors that were sold by BRC. They went to a North Carolina bioengineering research company, SciKon Innovation. 
SciKon CEO Randy McClelland said he was unaware that BRC was raided by the FBI. He said his business helps companies study how products enter the bloodstream through fingernails. “Like new cosmetics that go on your skin,” he said. 
On another Saturday, Glynn said, Kazemi gathered the interns around the body of another elderly woman. 
“He says, ‘Emily, you’ve never cut off a head before, and everyone else has, so do you want to try?’” Glynn recalled. “And I’m, like, ‘OK.’”
As she held the reciprocating saw, Glynn said, Kazemi steadied her grip. 
“It wasn’t a full-on chainsaw like you would see in a horror movie, but it was a smaller version,” Glynn said. “And then I just went for it. I was expecting lots of blood but there wasn’t much to it. It came right off,” she said of the woman’s head.
Kazemi said he doesn’t remember helping an intern cut off a head or any other body parts. The Saturday sessions, he said, were more akin to lectures during which he showed interns various organs and other body parts. 
In her senior thesis, Glynn described her time at BRC differently.

“One day, I found myself holding the hand of a 70-year-old woman and felt like I needed to apologize to her, to say, ‘I’m sorry.’”

Emily Glynn, a former BRC intern
“Over the course of the internship, I stripped subcutaneous fat from the vertebrae of a cervical spine, practiced performing cricothyrotomies (incisions to the throat), sutured dismembered legs using an oversized needle and twine, and decapitated an elderly woman with what looked and sounded like a chainsaw from Home Depot,” Glynn wrote in her thesis. “Not once did I receive formal training or instruction.”
BRC’s customers were not always directly acquiring body parts from the broker for their own medical education, research or training programs. According to invoices, some customers were middlemen – brokers who resold or leased body parts originally donated to BRC. The consent forms gave BRC the discretion to choose its customers, but the forms did not state that body parts could be resold by third parties.
In 2012 and 2013, BRC sold at least 961 body parts, including at least 224 human heads, to three such middlemen.
One was Innoved Institute LLC, a Chicago-area medical lab provider that also supplies human body parts. Innoved was among BRC’s best customers. It received at least 32 shipments with 277 body parts. Innoved executives did not respond to requests for comment. 
Another was Rathburn, the Detroit-area broker facing trial next month. He received at least 26 heads from BRC. Rathburn’s lawyers did not respond to a request for comment.  

         31% of Donors are Vets

A third middleman was Biological Resource Center of Illinois, another Chicago-area broker. Better known as BRC-IL, it received at least 658 body parts from BRC. BRC-IL operated independently from BRC. But it was also raided by FBI agents as part of the federal probe into suspected fraud against donors and customers. No one has been charged with a crime in the BRC-IL matter, and executives there did not respond to requests for comment.
One of the shoulders shipped to BRC-IL came from the body of Robert Louis DeRosier, a casino security employee. He died at age 64 after a long battle with diabetes.
His widow, Tama DeRosier, lives in a mobile home park in Mohave Valley, Arizona. She said her husband donated his body hoping it might contribute to diabetes research. She did not expect anyone to make money selling his remains.

“That’s morbid,” the widow said. “Greed is a terrible thing.”
Russell Parker Jr, who helped care for his dying brother Todd, said he was surprised to learn from a reporter that BRC sold Todd’s right knee and offered to sell Todd’s head. Friends had recommended BRC, he said. And when the company returned his brother’s ashes, everything seemed “all on the up and up, very professional.”
“Shame on BRC for showing such disrespect,” Parker said. “That’s so wrong. It’s like trafficking.”
The companion of one donor cited another area of confusion: BRC’s use of the term “tissue.”
In sales pitches and on consent forms, body brokers commonly talk about retrieving tissue from donors. To the medical community, “tissue” means any part of the body – from an organ to a torso. 
“Shame on BRC for showing such disrespect. It’s like trafficking.”

Russell Parker Jr, after learning his brother’s head and knee had been put up for sale
But in interviews with Reuters, family members of some donors said they believed “tissue” meant only skin samples. Though BRC did sell skin, those sales represented just 2 percent of its business, invoices show. 
Maureen Krueger said her partner of 42 years, Fidel Silva, told a female hospice worker in his final days that he wished to be cremated. 
“And that’s when she brought it up: ‘Would you be interested in donating tissues?’” Krueger recalled. 
The way she understood it, Krueger said, a few skin samples would be removed for research purposes. In return, BRC would cremate Silva for free. Silva, a 69-year-old construction worker with a high school degree, peppered the hospice worker with questions. 
“He asked, ‘Well, are you sure? What are they going to do?’” Krueger said. “He wanted to know. And that’s when she assured him it was only body tissues, they only took samples, they didn’t remove any organs or parts or anything. It was just tissues. And that’s when Fidel agreed.”
The conversation took place at the Hospice of Havasu in Arizona. Its executive director, Dan Mathews, said he could not discuss the matter due to patient-privacy laws. But he said the hospice, which offers its clients options to donate their bodies to science, “removed that company BRC from our list of providers” upon hearing it was under investigation. 

Internal BRC records show the body broker removed Silva’s head, and his right and left arms from shoulder to hand. Each was tagged with a tracking number and prepped for sale.
“Wow,” Krueger said. “I didn’t really realize they could do all that. I mean, I didn’t understand that’s what would happen with Fidel at all.”
After the raid of BRC by federal and state agents, the body parts seized by authorities remained in limbo for almost three years. Their fate, detailed in confidential state logs, sworn statements and photographs, has never been made public.
Logistical problems began the day of the raid, said former agents Parker and Loftus. Authorities were stunned to find so much human flesh inside BRC, they said.
“We expected two freezers and a few hundred pounds of body parts,” said Loftus, who’s now running for state representative. “Instead, we found 40 freezers with 10 tons of bodies and parts.”
Agents entered in hazmat gear and took biopsies from each body part to preserve as evidence. Records show the agents then placed the 1,755 parts into 142 body bags. 
The bags were sent to 10 local funeral homes so the remains could be cremated. But records and interviews show that BRC and others for whom it was storing body parts objected to their destruction. They argued that the parts had a value of more than $1 million.  
The cremation plans were put on hold, but authorities soon faced a pressing problem, according to former agents Loftus and Parker. Funeral homes could refrigerate but not freeze the body parts, and the mortuaries began to complain that some of the parts were starting to thaw.
As a solution, authorities obtained three walk-in industrial freezers and installed them at a military base used by the Arizona National Guard. Then, body bag by body bag, the mortuaries delivered the parts, and Loftus and Parker helped carry them into the freezers.
In an interview, Parker recalled feeling body parts sloshing around inside the bags as he moved them. Some bags leaked blood that stained his pants and shoes. The experience led to his PTSD diagnosis, he said.
“It’s not how you treat human beings, human remains,” Parker testified in a deposition as part of his PTSD claim. “You don’t throw them in a bunch of body bags and then throw them into a freezer like a pile of garbage.”
The spokeswoman for the Arizona Attorney General’s Office said the body parts were kept for federal authorities “as evidence in ongoing criminal investigations and prosecutions across the country.” An FBI spokesman declined to comment. In February, after almost three years in the containers, the remains were cremated and returned to families that requested them, the state spokeswoman said.
In response to the Gore case, the Arizona governor signed into law a bill that requires body brokers like BRC to be licensed and regularly inspected. The new law calls for brokers to follow a set of standards and to hire a medical doctor to supervise company practices.
Although the law was adopted a year and a half ago, it has yet to be enforced: The state health department still must create specific rules for brokers. It isn’t clear when it will. Health department officials, said a spokeswoman, “do not have an anticipated date of completion at this time.”
The Body Trade
By John Shiffman, Reade Levinson and Brian Grow
Data analysis: Reade Levinson
Graphics: Maryanne Murray
Photo editing: Steve McKinley
Design: Troy Dunkley
Edited by Blake Morrison  

October 26, 2017

The Body Trade } Cody Died at 24, Had His Body Parts Traded Parents Could Not Afford Funeral

Cody, I know you think you were ugly but you were not and you were so brave 
and a good son to your parents.

On this report, we learn about a cute little boy who happens to be very sickly. Born into two deadly circumstances; Poverty and illness. It hurt me to read his story and more to publish it but I think Cody will help put some breaks at the way human bodies and parts are exchanged as easily in some cases than used alternators and sometimes cheaper. The worse problem is that donors and donor families are not aware of what the gift entails. These are not body parts for human transplants but bodies donated to Institutions for research.🦊

TOWNSEND, Tennessee – Cody Saunders was born in 1992 with failing kidneys and a hole in his heart. 
When he died on his 24th birthday, he had endured 66 surgeries and more than1,700 rounds of dialysis, his parents said. Some days, he hid the pain in upbeat selfies on Facebook. Other days, he shared an excruciating reality, posing in a hospital bed with bandages strapped across his scarred chest. 
On his Facebook profile, Cody wrote that he was looking for a girlfriend who will accept “me for me.”
“Y am I ugly,” he posted on Christmas Day 2015.
Cody lived with his parents in an aged motorhome at an East Tennessee campground. When he was well enough, he worked on a farm with his father, feeding cattle, putting up hay, hauling molasses in a dump truck from one barn to another.
On August 2, 2016, Cody died after a heart attack on his way home from dialysis. Too poor to bury or cremate him, Cody’s parents donated their son’s body to an organization called Restore Life USA. The facility sells donated bodies – in whole or by part – to researchers, universities, medical training facilities and others. 
“I couldn’t afford nothin’ else,” father Richard explained. 

The month after Cody died, Restore Life sold part of the young man’s body: his cervical spine. The transaction required just a few email exchanges and $300, plus shipping. 
Whether Restore Life vetted the buyer is unclear. But if workers there had verified their customer’s identity, they would have learned he was a reporter from Reuters. The news agency was seeking to determine how easy it might be to buy human body parts and whether those parts would be useful for medical research. In addition to the spine, Reuters later purchased two human heads from Restore Life, each priced at $300.
The transactions demonstrate the startling ease with which human body parts may be bought and sold in the United States. Neither the sales nor the shipments violated any laws, say, lawyers, professors and government officials who follow the issue closely. Although it’s illegal to sell organs used for transplants, it’s perfectly legal in most states to sell body parts that were donated for research or education. Buying wine over the Internet is arguably more tightly controlled, generally requiring at a minimum proof of age.
To comply with legal, ethical and safety considerations before the purchases, Reuters consulted with Angela McArthur, who directs the body donation program at the University of Minnesota Medical School. She took immediate custody of the spine and heads for Reuters, inspecting and storing them at the medical school. 
McArthur said she was troubled by how easily the body parts were acquired and by the failure of Restore Life to perform proper due diligence.
“It’s like the Wild West,” McArthur said. “Anybody could have ordered these specimens and had them delivered to their home for whatever purpose they want.”
McArthur examined the remains and the documentation included with them to determine how useful the parts would be for medical research. Her review was based on national safety and ethical standards she helped draft for the American Association of Tissue Banks, the American Association of Clinical Anatomists and the University of Minnesota. 
She concluded that the medical history Restore Life provided was insufficient, and that the accompanying paperwork was sloppy and inadequate. For those reasons, the specimens did not meet standards for use at her university, she said.
“I haven’t seen anything this egregious before,” McArthur said. “I worry about the future of body donation and public trust in body donation when we have situations like this.”
Contacted several months after the sales, Restore Life President James Byrd briefly explained his approach to business. 

THE MIDDLEMAN: James Byrd, who runs Restore Life USA, sold body parts to Reuters. Handout via Reuters

“Organizations like ours are what I consider accountable because, especially us, we have direct contact with the donor family,” he said. “And there’s a certain level of respect and dignity that is involved there because we have that personal relationship with them.”
Byrd subsequently declined to be interviewed or answer written questions. But he emailed a statement in which he criticized Reuters for making the purchases.
“It’s obvious your team at Thomson Reuters has no concern for those that seek help from our organization,” he wrote. “You only wish to hurt those that need help the most.”
Byrd added that Restore Life does good work by supplying body parts to researchers working to cure cancer, dementia and other diseases. 
“We help countless people through a wide range of research working with world-renowned researchers,” he wrote. 
Whatever good Restore Life hoped to achieve by supplying these body parts, McArthur said, its poor handling of the remains “miserably failed” to serve researchers and the three donors: Cody Saunders and the unidentified man and woman whose heads Byrd sold to Reuters. 
McArthur said the relatives of donors, whose intentions are noble during a difficult time, deserve better from the industry.
“People think they are doing the right thing, and they want to fulfill their loved ones’ wishes,” said McArthur, who formerly chaired Minnesota’s body donation commission and serves on the leadership council of the American Association of Clinical Anatomists. “I know they would feel exploited to know that something like this happened.”
Thomas Champney, an anatomy professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, also expressed alarm at the ease of the sales.
“Human body parts should not be bought and sold in the same manner as used refrigerators,” he said.
Byrd, 50, has been in the body parts business for two decades. An East Tennessee native, the body broker recently was runner-up in a stand-up comedy contest called The Funniest Person in the Tri-Cities, the region surrounding Kingsport, Johnson City, and Bristol. 
Before opening Restore Life, Byrd directed a nonprofit tissue bank called American Donor Services, then located near Memphis.
For several years, one of American Donor’s chief orthopedic customers was a Texas firm affiliated with a company that distributed bone grafts made in part from human tissue. In 2005, according to sworn testimony in a civil lawsuit, American Donor shifted to a new chief orthopedic customer. The new buyer paid as much as $10,000 per donor, provided a $200,000 line of credit and began managing American Donor’s financial affairs. 

INSPECTION: Anatomist Angela McArthur reviews the paperwork that accompanied the cervical spine. REUTERS/Greg Savoy

Byrd left American Donor Services a short while later, worked briefly for a vascular tissue bank, and then founded Restore Life in 2008. Based in Elizabethton, Tennessee, Restore Life obtains bodies mostly from people in Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina. In return for body donations, Restore Life offers to pick up the deceased, cremate the unused remains for free and return them to the family.
 In 2011, Byrd spoke publicly about Restore Life in a presentation to the commissioners in nearby Sullivan County. Officials there had grown frustrated by the increasing cost to taxpayers of cremating the indigent. According to a recording of that meeting, Byrd explained that he could help the county. He also noted that many families who donated to Restore Life did so for financial reasons: All expenses were covered, including cremation.
“We have become more a service for those indigent and pauper cases that can’t afford a funeral,” Byrd told the commissioners. “It’s a perfect fit for situations where families don’t have the funding or sometimes where it’s left to the county for funding.”
Restore Life’s informal arrangement with Sullivan County to take indigent bodies continues today, county officials said. A few times a month, they said, the medical examiner or other officials refer pauper cases to Byrd for possible donation. At the 2011 meeting, County Attorney Dan Street said a formal arrangement with Byrd was unnecessary because officials were merely referring the indigent to him, without any endorsement implied.
“This company is simply going to come and take these bodies,” Street told commissioners. “We’re simply getting out of the way and letting them do what private enterprise does best.”
Since it opened, Restore Life has grown almost every year, according to the latest available tax records filed with the Internal Revenue Service. 
Records show that Restore Life’s annual revenue rose from $49,251 in 2009 to $1.1 million in 2016. Income also increased, the records show. In 2009, expenses exceeded revenue by $1,277. Last year, revenues were $187,884 higher than expenses. The tax records show the charity’s net assets were $354,556 on Aug. 31, 2016, the last date for which records are available.
Byrd lives and works in a Tennessee town where the median household income is $30,000. The nonprofit he operates paid him a salary of $113,000 last year, the tax records show. 
Angie Saunders recalls that during her pregnancy, there were no signs of trouble in her prenatal check-ups or ultrasound tests. But when Cody was born on August 2, 1992, he arrived in grave distress. 

“Human body parts should not be bought and sold in the same manner as used refrigerators.”

Thomas Champney, anatomy professor, University of Miami
He was moved from the county hospital to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville, where he stayed three months. He was diagnosed with VATER Syndrome, a condition involving multiple birth defects. 
Besides the hole in his heart and failing kidneys, Cody was born without a rectum. For the first two years of his life, Cody’s parents said, they fed him through a gastrostomy tube. 
Cody had so many dietary restrictions – no milk, no chocolate, no tomatoes, no salt – that he settled on dry Fruit Loops as his go-to meal. For dessert, he took a couple of bites from a stick of butter.
Cody needed dialysis three times a week, four hours per session. Given her son’s needs, his mother couldn’t work much. His father told every employer upfront that his child came first.
“Half of his life, if it wasn’t the hospital, it was dialysis,” Richard said. “I went through a lot of jobs.”
When Cody was about 9 years old, his parents said, he received a kidney transplant that transformed him. It freed him from constant dialysis. He learned to swim and had more time for school. 
“I wouldn’t say he was normal,” Richard said, “but at least we weren't having to be tied down as much.”
The new kidney lasted a little more than five years, and when it failed, Cody was rushed by helicopter to the hospital for a monthlong stay, his parents said. Dialysis began anew.

TEEN ART: At 14, Cody won an American Kidney Fund art contest for this drawing. Handout via Reuters

At 14, Cody won a children’s art contest. The charity, American Kidney Fund, flew him to Washington, D.C. On a contest questionnaire, he listed his favorite things, including gym class, coloring, and riding his bike. His favorite actor was Scooby Doo. His role models: his dad and his mom. When he grew up, Cody wrote, he hoped to work with his father.
Cody left school in the 11th grade. His parents say he was reading at a second-grade level. He worked on farms as often as he could with his dad, and in the winter they sold firewood. He chewed Skoal tobacco and played pool at a local club. To protect his kidneys and heart, he didn’t drink alcohol. But he didn’t always follow doctors’ advice. He could drink a six-pack of Mello Yello soda in a day, his parents said. 
In his final years, Cody grew sad and lonely. His parents noticed, and so did his friends on Facebook. He was wary of the pills, the dialysis, the hospitals and the constant reminders of what he could and could not do, his parents said.
“I think not just his body was tired, but his whole mind was done,” his father said.
“He wasn’t scared,” his mother said. “He was ready.”
Cody’s heart stopped on his birthday, August 2, 2016. Not long afterward, Restore Life collected his body.
On August 29, 2016, Reuters reporter Brian Grow sent an inquiry via email to Restore Life’s Byrd. At the time, the news agency knew nothing about Cody Saunders.
To contact Byrd, the reporter used his real name and his Thomson Reuters email account. 
“We are seeking to price, including shipping costs, to procure one cervical spine specimen for purposes of a research project involving non-transplant tissue,” the query said. The term “non-transplant tissue” refers to body parts, such as heads and spines, which cannot be transplanted into living humans.
The request from the reporter provided a delivery address in Minneapolis, a few miles from the University of Minnesota’s anatomy lab. The query concluded, “We look forward to hearing from you.”
Byrd responded about an hour later. “Thank you for your email, I do not believe we have worked with you in the past. How did you hear about our organization?”
“Your firm was referred to us by an industry contact,” Grow replied.
Byrd asked if Grow wanted a full cervical spine – the vertebrae and tissue in the neck, just below the skull. When told yes, Byrd replied that the price would be $300, plus $150 shipping. He attached X-rays, which were described as belonging to a 24-year-old male.
Three days later, Grow accepted the offer.

Byrd replied, “Thank you again for allowing us the opportunity to work with you and your organization.” He added three questions. One concerned billing and one asked to confirm that the spine should be sent frozen, not thawed. Byrd’s third question was whether the specimen would be used for “medical research or medical education.”
In addition to determining how easy it might be to buy body parts, Reuters sought to assess the quality of the specimens and the documentation that came with them. When the reporter responded simply, “It’s being used for medical research,” Byrd closed the deal. 
“Thank you again (sic) the opportunity to work with you and your organization,” he wrote. 
McArthur said the Reuters purchase was legal and ethical. No law prohibits such sales, she said, and the news agency was conducting legitimate research. Byrd, she added, broke no laws by selling the body parts. Still, she said, the three questions he asked in his email demonstrated the broker’s focus on completing the sale, rather than on seeking more details about the buyer’s intentions. 
That process can include a request by the seller for details about how the buyer intends to use the body parts for research or education.
McArthur said brokers like Byrd who accept donations have an ethical responsibility – though not a legal one – to ensure that body parts will be used in a medical setting for an appropriate purpose. Reuters turned over the remains to McArthur for analysis and safekeeping. But another buyer could have done anything with the human spine and heads, she said.
On September 27, 2016, a FedEx driver delivered a brown cardboard box to the Minneapolis location where Reuters had leased a mailing address. There, Grow received the package and gave it to a courier who specializes in transporting human remains. The courier drove it directly to McArthur at the medical school.

“I didn’t get to hold Cody when he came into the world and I didn’t get to hold him when he went out.”

Angie Saunders, Cody’s mother
McArthur immediately noticed problems. She said she found it odd that the outside of the box was not labeled with a customary warning that human remains were inside. McArthur found a pair of one-page documents in the box. One contained the results of a serology test by a reputable company, certifying that the donor was free of infectious disease.
The other page offered a handwritten summary, in layman’s terms, of the donor’s medical history.
“In my experience, I would have expected to see a more robust form,” McArthur said, explaining that most brokers provide precise and detailed medical histories. “It’s very superficial.”
The medical summary contained neither letterhead nor contact phone number, she noted. McArthur also cited inconsistencies in the specimen identification numbers listed at the top and bottom of one of the pages. And she noticed a small discrepancy between the identification numbers listed on the paperwork and a tag attached to a plastic bag covering the spine.
Precise, legible medical history and consistent donor identification systems are critical information for proper medical research, said University of California anatomical services director Brandi Schmitt. The medical history helps the researcher account for variables such as disease or trauma. Clear paperwork and accurate tagging, she said, allow researchers to track specimens in a scientific manner.
To prevent mishaps that could lead to lost or misidentified body parts, Schmitt said, most hospitals and medical schools use modern tracking techniques, including computer-generated metal discs or barcode tags. A label of some sort should have been directly attached to the spine itself, she said, not merely to the packaging. 
“Misidentification is a real problem, for sure,” said Schmitt, who coordinates body donation for the University of California’s medical schools statewide. “I don’t think that a handwritten document is your most professional approach. It can lead to human error.”
A week after the spine arrived, Byrd responded to a follow-up email from Grow. Byrd said human heads were available for $300 each. He also offered discounts on knee and foot specimens to free up “some freezer space.” He wrote that his low prices for body parts reflect the company’s “nonprofit public charity” status, adding: “We are looking to just cover our overhead.”
Richard and Angie Saunders said they wanted to bury Cody beside relatives in a nearby cemetery. But Richard, who struggles to read, earns only about $900 a month. Angie, who has long suffered from debilitating anxiety, cannot work or drive. A burial was simply too expensive.
Friends offered to pay for cremation, which typically costs at least $695 in the region. But the Saunders said they felt uneasy about accepting charity from folks they know. So they donated Cody’s body to Restore Life. At the time, Richard said he was grateful for the free cremation the firm promised.
The hardship the family faced is not uncommon among donors, said Martha Thayer, chair of the mortuary science program at Arapahoe Community College in Colorado.
Bereaved families are “vulnerable and are being put in the position of choosing this as an option when they don’t have money,” Thayer said. “The only thing that’s sadder than a person who can’t afford to live is a person who can’t afford to die.”
In Cody’s case, a relative read a donor consent form aloud to his parents before they signed it.
One paragraph says: “I authorize Restore Life USA to obtain all necessary tissue and organs for research and educational purposes. I understand this gift will be used for scientific research, teaching or other conforming purposes and for use in multiple research or educational venues with for profit and/or non-profit organizations that Restore Life USA, in their sole discretion, deems necessary to facilitate the gift.”

The Saunders said they believed this meant that Restore Life would merely remove small skin samples from Cody for medical research, cremate him and then return his ashes. The Restore Life consent form for Cody didn’t disclose that a donated body may be dismembered, as consent forms of most other brokers do. 
A few weeks after the donation, a man from Restore Life delivered an urn with Cody’s ashes. Angie can’t recall the man’s name but said he was kind.
“Really nice and understanding,” she said.
The toll Cody’s death has taken on Richard worries Angie. He won’t eat more than a few bites of whatever she cooks and usually refuses to talk about their loss. Richard said Angie isn’t wrong, but he noted he has reduced his smoking, from five packs a day to about three.
On the rusted red-and-white pickup he used to ride in with his son, Richard placed a large sticker on the rear window: “In Loving Memory of Cody Saunders.” 
 “He was my buddy. He was my best friend,” Richard said. “I keep telling myself I’ll get over it, I’ll get over it.” 
In a shoebox inside her motorhome, Angie Saunders keeps four photographs of Cody. In each one, he looks directly into the camera, shades perched over his ballcap. She also keeps a silver urn containing his ashes on the dashboard. 
“I didn’t get to hold Cody when he came into the world and I didn’t get to hold him when he went out,” she said. “But he came back to me, so he’s in here with me.”
 In January, Restore Life shipped the second package to Reuters at the same Minneapolis address. This one contained two human heads: one male, one female. As an upcoming story will detail, Reuters purchased the heads as part of its research into a case in Pennsylvania. There, a human head was found in a wooded area near Pittsburgh almost three years ago.
Again, the specialist courier brought the box to McArthur’s university lab, where she donned protective gear and opened it. 
The Styrofoam container inside the cardboard box arrived cracked along two of the outside edges, making it vulnerable to leaks and presenting a potential health risk to anyone handling it, from shippers to researchers, McArthur said.
She also found problems with the paperwork for the male head.
“The area where tissue samples are usually listed – usually with the client, sample description, sample ID, type of preservation, and the date and time of preservation – is all blank,” she said. 

“SLOPPY AND INADEQUATE”: A document that accompanied the spine Restore Life sold to Reuters listed the wrong client. Expert Angela McArthur called the paperwork “sloppy and inadequate.”

Likewise, the paperwork for the female head was unprofessionally prepared, she said. McArthur said the documents were so hard to read that she struggled to understand key information any researcher would require, including the person’s medical history.
After the wrapping and paperwork were removed, McArthur found that neither head had an identification tag. A tag is considered critical, McArthur said, to track identity, especially when working with multiple body parts.
McArthur said that she was familiar with stories of casual sales of body parts by brokers, but the sloppiness of this shipment surprised her.
“I don’t believe what I have just seen here should be allowed or should be legal,” McArthur said. “I know that it can be handled in a way that won’t stifle medical education and research. We can do this the right way.”
As is customary in the body broker industry, Restore Life did not include the names of the people who donated the body parts it sold to reporter Grow – just each person’s age and date of death.
Reuters could not identify the individuals whose heads were shipped. But at just 24, Cody Saunders died so young that the news agency was able to identify him after searching through obituaries in southern states. 

CODY’S REMAINS: At the wishes of his parents, Reuters had Cody’s cervical spine cremated and delivered the ashes to his family. REUTERS/Wade Payne

With his parents’ permission and participation, Reuters hired a forensic lab to perform a DNA test. It confirmed that the cervical spine came from Cody.
In late August, Grow returned to visit Richard and Angie Saunders to tell them what Reuters had learned: Restore Life had dissected their son’s body and sold part of his spine.
For a few moments, Cody’s parents sat silently. 
Angie stared into the distance. Richard looked at the ground.
Then Angie spoke. “I thought they were just taking skin samples,” she said and began to cry.
Richard tried to comfort her. “It’s over with, honey.”
“I didn’t want no more surgeries,” she said.
“At that time, we did have no choice,” Richard reminded her. “But you have to look at it this way: Like you kept saying if it’s going to help somebody else…”
“I know, I know.”
The couple said nothing more for nearly half a minute. Finally, Richard turned to Angie. This part of their lives was “done and over,” he told her. 
Had they known Cody would be dissected, his parents said, they would not have donated his body. Cody, they felt, already had endured too many surgeries during his short life. They didn’t want or expect, anyone to “cut on him” in death, Richard said.
And yet, he added, “I couldn’t afford to do nothing else, so I felt like that was the best option we had.” 
Richard asked whether Restore Life used any other parts of Cody’s body. The reporter said he didn’t know. Brokers typically don’t disclose that information. Richard said he doubted he would seek answers from Restore Life. “I don’t blame them,” he said. But he appreciated learning what happened to Cody’s remains.
“Because we would have never known,” he said.
Angie agreed. “We wouldn’t have had a clue.”
Early this month, in keeping with the family’s wishes and at Reuters’ expense, Cody’s spine was cremated in Minnesota. Grow delivered the ashes to the Saunders family at their home in Tennessee.

The Body Trade
By Brian Grow and John Shiffman
Illustrations: Jeong Suh
Photo editing: Steve McKinley
Design: Troy Dunkley
Edited by Blake Morrison 

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