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Last updated at 16:11 BST, Thursday, 19 July 2012

The human tissue trade

Summary

19 July 2012

Tissue donation can dramatically improve and even save lives and as many as 50 people can be helped from the donation of one person. But a report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has found it's not always done legally.

Reporter:

Leana Hosea

Surgical instruments

Donated human tissue is a valuable resource but is it always done legally?

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Click to hear the report

Report

Worldwide millions of body parts are turned into medical products every year from tissue donation, in what has become a flourishing trade. When you donate your tissues, every part of the body worth recycling is stripped, from your skin and bones to veins, muscles, eyes and heart valves. Bones can be used in spinal surgery or for dental implants and skin is used for burn victims, for example. But where does it all come from, where is it used and was it all legally procured?

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists found repeated allegations in Ukraine that proper consent had not been obtained. What's more you won't necessarily know that you are receiving human tissue from a corpse.

The United States is the world's biggest trader of products from human tissue, selling an estimated two million body-derived products a year. Yet, according to the report, the authorities don't seem to know how much tissue is imported, where it comes from, or where it subsequently goes. Buying and selling human tissue is illegal in most countries, but paying service fees is permissible and the report says a single disease-free body can fetch tens of thousands of dollars.

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Vocabulary

tissue donation

the act of giving your body parts for medical use after you die

flourishing trade

growing business

stripped

removed

procured

obtained

allegations

accusations

consent

permission

corpse

dead body

imported

brought into a country

subsequently

afterwards

permissible

allowed

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