The Gruesome & the Murderous in
the Global Demand for Body Parts
At the end of the day, it’s all in the eye of the beholder. There are at least two ways to consider the subject of today’s post: with outrage, shock and disgust; or with the detached POV of a fly on the wall of a possible future. Someday, the human body may be treated just like animal parts are now, with the prospect of serving as a harvestable source of replacement organs.
We’ll give a few for those on the front row seats to leave. Thanks for coming and come back soon; we’re working on a story about butterflies you may be interested. For those cold-bloodied enough to stay, you know who and what you are. And boy, do we have a treat for you today. We may touch issues about free will, ritualistic killings, and fabrications of the pro-life movement.
Let’s get something out of the way, though: as long as you’re not doing anything to physically harm someone else, your body is yours for the taking. So you may stuff it, loaded with chemicals and smoke, or starve it, mistreat it, twist it, tattoo it, and generally negatively impress the kids by the way you abuse it.
It may not be nice, or healthy, or polite. Your neighbors may file complains against you. Family and friends may hold heated interventions about your rotten ways. You may find yourself in jail or having become the scorn of your generation. That’s terrible, we know, really ugly. But still, well within the confines of your right to inherit and dispose of your own body.
WATERBOARDING YOUR CONSCIENCE
It’s what some people do to other people’s bodies, though, specifically when done to those who are not in agreement with the proceedings, however the justification being used, that may deserve the full extent of society’s laws and crime prevention forces. Unfortunately, most of what’s despicably done to human beings by other human beings is done in secret.
Being in the name of freedom, of the interest of the majority, for the good will of some god, or for openly power-trip reasons, we shouldn’t really need to get to the ‘why’ it’s being done, but how come this was even considered valid under any circumstances. In other words, regardless the euphemism invoked, torture and physical punishment can never be ‘good.’
Ironically, society tends to exercise much more often its prefab outrage against what consenting adults decide to do with their own flesh and blood, rather than listen to the cries that come from the underground chambers of horror. That’s where the secret service, the state’s repression enforcers, local thugs or dominant warlords, routinely exact their own brand of justice.
Thus we’re easily affected by those whose personal sensibilities are borderline with psycho-pathologies, however harmless they may be to those around them. On the other hand, we’re mostly hardened and doubtful when someone accuses our government or military forces of engaging in illegal activities, or war crimes, or unacceptable terror tactics.
In both cases, the sophisticated S/M practitioner, and the activist whistle blower are charged first as enemies of our community or state. But the context in which someone would be driven to such violent form of sexual-fulfillment, or the possibility that those serious claims may be truthful are usually left to be studied and investigated in some vague future, which may never come.
THE VAIN, THE PRACTICAL & THE SINISTER
To many, there’s something inherently averting about turning a human body part into a commodity. Since issues of extreme poverty and blatant exploitation are usually involved in the not completely regulated practice, we tend to side up with those. You may remember last year, for example, when a young Chinese man attempt at trading a kidney for the then latest iPad. Sad, really.
Others, with a more matter-of-fact approach to it, simply rent parts of their bodies to private companies. It’s just the modern equivalent of the old ‘sandwich man,’ advertising wares on the corner of the town’s main square, except that now people may be willing to allow permanent tattoos on their foreheads and other parts of their anatomy. Again, it’s their bodies, etc, etc.
It may have been the show that’s touring the world, Bodies, created by German anatomist Gunther von Hagens, what may have started touching a sore nerve. As it turned out, human bodies displayed on the show, which are encased in a synthetic resin, were allegedly from executed Chinese prisoners, sold by that country’s government without consent of the deceased’s families.
The show’s macabre twist had also the merit of helping to uncover a multimillion dollar black market for human organs, that’s been thriving for years, but only recently has received widespread attention by the Interpol and the FBI. Suddenly, exposés by the international media, and a few gruesome cases to boot, gave the issue the relevance it deserves.
BODY TABOO & THE RED MARKET
Apart from the moral implications that the sale of body parts by the poor and the destitute to usually wealthy parties, the body itself is vast, and many parts are already traded without anyone screaming ‘bloody murder.’ To a list that already includes sperm, plasma, eggs and hair, you may now add bone marrow to utterly personal items anyone can legally sell in the U.S.
But these and other ‘goods’ are heavily regulated and cannot be purchased without written consent from the donor. Who, naturally, doesn’t need to be dead to donate them. It’s when there’s a premium placed on whole organs, without which no person can survive, though, that the market’s ghoulish and plain criminal aspect rears its ugly face.
There are no statistics, of course, for the number of people killed around the world, so their organs can be harvested, and we won’t offer here a speculative figure either. But consider that war is now a permanent state in so many parts of the planet, and progresses in foreign-tissue rejection have been remarkable, one can have a pretty good idea of the ‘what ifs’ of this issue.
Add to that too the extremely profitable plastic surgery industry, and the cumulative wealth of the majority of its patrons, and one starts to become alarmed by the possibility. Next, that same person would be floored by the realization that, in much of the ‘civilized’ world, rules of civility don’t apply, and whoever has the biggest gun or stick in the room, has the final saying.
ORGAN BROKERS & GRAVE ROBBERS
While bioethicists and federal regulators argue what the best way to approach the expected onslaught of demand for whole organs, which is already here in the form of a corrupted and dangerous black market, those who need, and can afford it, will continue to seek those who have no choice. The informal network of potential donors, transplant candidates and brokers will remain active either way.
Scientific advances in biotechnology are under pressure to produce results, that could counter and neutralize the unstoppable offer and demand, by providing alternatives to transplant and medical research. We’re still a long way to go, though, and it’s very likely that robots will be thinking by themselves way before we develop a functional liver, ready to be purchased.
A surprising development can also be credited to the increased demand for human body parts: the resurgence of grave robbers, common since the time of the Pyramids, but now endowed with way more sophisticated means. For most thefts of bodies happen no under the cover of the night, in some dark cemetery, but under the fluorescent lights of the funeral parlor.
That’s when shady deals are completed and ‘noble’ human bones, such as femurs and hips, are extracted from those who, grant it, won’t need them. Such precious contraband goes on to be sold at a premium in places full of despicable characters and plenty of greed. Up to recently, even a few celebrities who passed away became victims of this extremely low-form of crime, if there’s ever one.
On top of all that, there are still vast areas of the globe where the killing and harvesting of human organs is done in the name of superstitious practices, or simply to assure control of one group over another. In South Africa, what’s known as Muti Murders, for example, continues to lawlessly earn its wages of carnage on the (literal) back of thousands of ‘impure souls.’
Every night, armies of vigilantes have been roaming the African land, in search of those perceived as worthy being ritualistic killed, their organs taken while they’re still breathing, so to prepare the ancient concoctions of their traditional medicine. Hundreds are said to be killed every year in the hands of local warlords, who decide who lives and who dies.
Even if the body parts of these unfortunate victims will never reach the worldwide network, where they could fetch millions to a few crooks, there’s reason to believe that the market in which such a lowlife form of criminal thrives has everything going on for it, and hardly any sight it will slow down anytime in the future.
PRO-LIFE OF MISERY & CONTROL
It’s typical then that, while this horrifying reality is rampant all around us, some choose to be organized to combat a fictitious terror tale: that of the sale of fetuses. With hardly any evidence, though, that’s how large segments of the religious right are aiming their guns; by denouncing such invented illness as a product of a ‘godless society.’
Such forces don’t fool anyone, though, for it’s clear that their real agenda is to reverse the reproductive rights that women in this and other modern societies have earned through hard work. And to do away with the freedom that it represents to the gender that’s usually perceived as a second-class citizenry by religions of all stripes, in the first place.
While these groups terrorize immature and often illiterate teenager girls into believing they have no other choice but to have babies, even when generated by accident or rape, children born under similar or worse conditions continue to be targeted by tribal despots, international pedophile networks, and black-market organ brokers.
It may be disturbing to see how people voluntarily submit their bodies to all sorts of physical stress, but that’s their prerogative. It’s disgusting to learn about a ghoulish market that preys on the poor for their organs. But it’s much more revolting to witness some feigning sympathy to the victims, while pushing their own obscurantist agenda against basic human rights.