Summary and book reviews of Body Brokers by Annie Cheney

Body Brokers

Inside America's Underground Trade in Human Remains

By Annie Cheney

Body Brokers
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  • Hardcover: Mar 2006,
    240 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2007,
    240 pages.

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Book Summary

Body Brokers 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 practices—from 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.

Chapter 1
Wilderness

Joyce Zamazanuk knew that her son was dying. She knew it when the nurses quietly wheeled Jim to a private room on the seventh floor of the hospital in San Diego. His new room had a bed, a metal chair, and an oxygen tube, but little else. Outside, few visitors wandered the halls. A hush hung over the nursing station. Joyce thought, This must be where they bring the sick patients to die.

Six days in the hospital had done little to help Jim. AIDS had ravaged his body. The tumor that engulfed his lungs appeared larger in each new CAT scan. Always slender, Jim Farrelly, forty-five, was now reedlike beneath the cotton sheets and blankets. His thick brown hair had thinned to a soft, downy fur. He had trouble talking. Death by asphyxiation was certain.

Joyce wondered what awaited her beloved son: Would he feel pain in the moment of his passing? How much ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

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).

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Media Reviews
Society of Professional Journalists 2005

Horrifying! Annie 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).

Kirkus Reviews

A fascinating report filled with remarkable details, but definitely not for the squeamish.

Publishers Weekly

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.

Reader Reviews
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

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

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Beyond the Book

I have carried a donor card for more than 20-years and plan to always do so - but, I have to say that Body Brokers has given me pause for thought. I anticipated that 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 the highest ...

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