Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Body Brokers

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Body Brokers

Inside America's Underground Trade in Human Remains

by Annie Cheney

Body Brokers by Annie Cheney
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2006, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2007, 240 pages

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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 bidder I feel like I'd like to attach a few caveats to the little pink dot on the corner of my driver's license. Having said that, perhaps that little pink dot gives me some assurance that my body would end up in reputable hands - as opposed to what could happen to it down at the local crematorium. Then again, look at the case involving the University of California that is currently unfolding (see links in the main block).

When I used to think of body brokering, I would think of places like India - triggered by memories of books such as Dominique Lapierre's The City of Joy, or the throw-away comment made by a very rich Indian acquaintance 20 years ago, in which he predicted that India would become a nexus for surgical operations because the medical staff are well qualified and "the spare parts are easy to come by".

He was right, sometime over the last couple of decades a new category has appeared on the immigration cards of countries such as India, Indonesia and China - alongside the "business" and "vacation" check-boxes is now a third option - "medical". Of course, not everybody who travels overseas for an operation is doing so for "spare-parts" related surgery - many are simply getting better quality, more immediate treatment than they could get at home for a fraction of the price - plus a vacation thrown in! For example, I know a British citizen who traveled to India for a hip operation and an Australian who goes to Bali for all his dental work!

However, some are traveling overseas to have replacement surgery - in China's case many of the available organs are harvested from the 6,000+ prisoners who are executed in Chinese prisoners each year. The moral outrage about this is palpable (for example, an article in last year's Denver Post) - but what about getting a little more angry about what's happening in our own backyard?

This article was originally published in May 2006, and has been updated for the March 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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