Thwarted body part markets in everything

The Chicago-based nonprofit faces “the same challenge any business would have, whether I’m selling Hostess Twinkies or cadavers,” says Stephen Burnett, a professor of management and strategy at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

To stay ahead, the association wants to supply body parts to the FBI and launch new products, including its own plastinated bodies, says Mr. Dudek, 62, executive vice president since 2005. He draws on his entrepreneurial experience as a co-owner of an MRI center in the south suburbs, which he sold to join the association.

Originally known as the Demonstrator’s Society, the association has not changed its business plan since its founding in 1918. Bodies are donated, embalmed and transferred to institutions such as med schools, where dissection remains a rite of passage.

Reasons for donations vary. Some gifts are part of estate planning, while others are made by relatives who cannot afford funerals.

By law, bodies cannot be sold, although groups like the association can be paid for processing. Member med schools pay about $1,300 per cadaver; nonmembers pay $2,300.

Nationwide, there’s a shortage of cadavers, in part because of the rise in organ donation. Cadavers without their organs are not suitable for medical education, Mr. Dudek notes. The association needs about 425 bodies a year for its members but missed that mark in 2009 and has barely met it in three of the last six years.

And yet globalization and government may come to the rescue:

The Middle East, where the culture discourages body donations, could be a new market. Schools in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia have recently expressed interest, he says. Law enforcement agencies also are prospects. Anatomical Gift is close to signing a contract to supply the FBI’s K-9 unit, which uses body parts to train dogs to find crime victims, he says. Limbs cost $570, plus $335 for HIV and hepatitis testing, since they are not embalmed, Mr. Dudek says. An FBI spokeswoman declines to comment.

There is more here, and for the pointer I thank G. Patrick Lynch.


Thank you, Prof. Cowen, for a wonderful breakfast experience! :)

NB: Would allowing the sales of cadavers be a good idea? I am not sure. I mean, I am not one for the sanctity of the body and other sacred stuff. I think legalising prostitution is an excellent idea, for example. But I am a bit more dubious about tariffs for organs and cadavers. I think it stands more chances of abuse and the 'damage' of selling a sex act (under economic necessity) doesn't strike me as on par with the damage of selling a kidney or another body part (under economic necessity).

Why not import some cheap ones from Mexico?

Especially if you don't need the heads.

You can't sell bodies for profit so the market is based on good will. I'm not sure how many you can import solely using good will as a currency.

Allow people to charge for cadavers and tissues and organs and this problem will go away almost immediately.

So, greater social utility from donating your organs or your cadaver?

Good question - this actually got me thinking I would leave my body to a medical school if that's a viable alternative.

Stiff, for more than you ever wanted to know about the inner workings of these markets.

"By law, bodies cannot be sold"

As opposed to legal bodies, which by law must be bought and paid for.

The more interesting part of the post wasn't printed and is listed below:

"Mr. Dudek says Anatomical Gift has received 60 bodies from the Cook County medical examiner since July, when Dr. Stephen Cina took the post. Dr. Cina's predecessor made just two contributions since 2010, when the county started giving corpses that would otherwise be buried at public expense to medical and mortuary schools."

Add this to the other advantages of being poor: they take your body.

Four limbs at $570 is $2,280. An entire body, even for non members, is $2,300. Therefore, the lack of organs can't be more than a $20 problem.

Maybe the $20 surcharge is because it has not been non-membered.

I stopped paying my dues, and they dismembered me.

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