is an audacious, disturbing, and compellingly written investigative exposé of a
little known aspect of the "death care" world: the lucrative business of
procuring, buying, and selling human cadavers and body parts.
Every year human corpses meant for anatomy classes, burial, or cremation find
their way into the hands of a shadowy group of entrepreneurs who profit by
buying and selling human remains. While the government has controls on organs
and tissue meant for transplantation, these "body brokers" capitalize on the
myriad other uses for dead bodies that receive no federal oversight whatsoever:
commercial seminars to introduce new medical gadgetry; medical research studies
and training courses; and U.S. Army land-mine explosion tests. A single corpse
used for these purposes can generate up to $10,000.
As journalist Annie Cheney found while reporting on this subject over the course
of three years, when there's that much money to be made with no federal
regulation, there are all sorts of shady (and fascinating) characters who are
willing to employ questionable practicesfrom deception and outright theft -- to
acquire, market, and distribute human bodies and parts. In Michigan and New
York she discovers funeral directors who buy corpses from medical schools and
supply the parts to surgical equipment companies and associations of surgeons.
In California, she meets a crematorium owner who sold the body parts of people
he was supposed to cremate, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in
profits. In Florida, she attends a medical conference in a luxury hotel, where
fresh torsos are delivered in large coolers and displayed on gurneys in a room
normally used for banquets. "That torso that you're living in right now is just
flesh and bones. To me, it's a product," says the New Jersey-based broker
presiding over the torsos. Tracing the origins of body brokering from the
"resurrectionists" of the 19th century to the entrepreneurs of today, Cheney
chronicles how demand for cadavers has long driven unscrupulous funeral home,
crematorium and medical school personnel to treat human bodies as commodities.
Gripping, often chilling, and sure to cause a reexamination of the American way
of death, Body Brokers is a captivating work of first-person reportage.
Cheney's investigations of both the reputable and crooked dealers create a fascinating but decidedly morbid work that covers some of the same ground as Mary Roach's Stiff - but digs deeper into the shady side of the American trade in body parts. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
A fascinating report filled with remarkable details, but definitely not for the squeamish.
Readers will be horrified by this carefully researched expose revealing that the trade in corpses for medical research and education didn't go out with 19th-century grave robbers .... Cheney reveals a disturbing medical underworld that deserves attention.
Booklist - Donna Chavez
Starred Review. This is a chilling expose of the grisly industry of body trading.
Society of Professional Journalists 2005
Cheney's account is meticulously reported and compellingly written. She uses
details to anchor scenes visually and then pushes the reader to visualize the
entrepreneurial manipulation of corpses their dismemberment, sale and use as
both gruesome and matter-of-fact. She backs up her narrative with research into
history, literature and crime. (This quote refers to Cheney's article, "The Resurrection Men", first run in Harpers Magazine, which formed the basis of Body Brokers).
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Karen No conspiracy? Hi Ms. Cheney,
I spoke to you on the phone several years ago. When I suggested that Philip Guyett was one of the people in your book, you didn't say " Who?" you said, " there's no conspiracy ".... Well, read Head Shoulders... Read More
Rated of 5
by Tina Body Broker I couldn't put this book down. I usually log on to bookbrowse.com and read a little about a book before picking it up at the library. This book is very real and page turner for sure. I used to work in a morgue while attending college...I never... Read More
I have carried a
donor card for
plan to always
do so - but, I
have to say that
has given me
if my body was
no longer needed
by me that it
could be of help
to other people,
but now that it
looks like I
could simply be
handing it over
to be sold to
bidder I feel
like I'd like to
attach a few
caveats to the
little pink dot
on the corner of
little pink dot...
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