Other issues include a lack of disclosure about how a body will be used. A broker might dismember the body, sending off one part to a medical school, and the other to a research institution. Sometimes, those parts are used over and over again. In some cases, companies — or even the military — use body parts for impact studies to ensure their products will protect as they’re designed to. “Body brokers need to list that in the consent so that people don’t feel abused,” says McArthur.
There’s also the fact that some brokers are making a nice profit from your body, once in their possession.
“It’s illegal to buy a body,” says Champney, “but they might be charging their end customers astronomical shipping costs, turning a profit.”
The body brokering business also has some unethical players who prey on low-income donors, promising cremation services in exchange for a body. They advertise at hospices, nursing homes, and even low-income senior housing.
The horror stories of unscrupulous brokers are just that — horrifying.
A widow from New Orleans followed her late husband’s wishes to donate his body to science. But instead of being use for research, his corpse was dissected in October in front of a live audience of people who paid up to $500 to attend an event called the Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Portland, OR.
In 2014, the FBI raided a for-profit company, Biological Resource Center, where agents found a macabre scene of mismatched limbs and other body parts that sounds like a scene from a low-rent horror film. The company had accepted private body donations with the promise that they would be used in scientific research.
While it can feel like a good deal, you should know what happens next with your or your loved one’s body.
Keep Your Eyes Open
If you or a loved one is considering body donation, you’ll want to pay attention to safeguards and red flags.
“When reading over the consent, look to make sure the use of the donation is listed and who the possible users will be,” says McArthur. “Also, have a spelled-out time frame for when your loved one’s remains will be cremated, and know whether or not the remains you receive back will be total body or partial body cremation.”