Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Special Report: In the Market for Human Bodies, Almost Anyone Can Sell the Dead

KidneyThe death of a loved one can be a financially difficult time. The costs of a funeral service, burial, and other associated expenses may add strain to already tight budgets. Southern Nevada Donor Services (SNDS) offers a means for struggling families to pay these expenses: donate the corpse of the loved one for use in medical studies in exchange for free cremation. This deal seems to be a win-win for both the family and the donor service, but SNDS has recently been shown to engage in some troubling practices. As early as 2015, neighboring tenants started noticing an odd smell emanating from the SNDS warehouse. There were also some reports of bloody boxes left in a dumpster.

In December of 2015, health inspectors were called out to SNDS in response to a complaint. They arrived to witness a SNDS employee thawing a frozen torso in the courtyard with a garden hose. Pieces of tissue and blood were actively being washed into a nearby gutter. Though this apparent desecration of a corpse seems deserving of some serious reprimand, the inspectors could do nothing other than issue a citation. In this unregulated market, there is little oversight and the consequences for traditionally abhorrent acts are minimal. Joe Collazo, a SNDS employee not involved in the incident, was apologetic and said of the industry: “To be honest with you, I think there should be regulation. There’s too much gray area.”

See Brian Grow & John Shiffman, Special Report: In the Market for Human Bodies, Almost Anyone Can Sell the Dead, Reuters, October 24, 2017.

Special thanks to Deborah Matthews for bringing this article to my attention.


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