Friday, November 8, 2013

Body Brokering

We've all heard the rumors and exposes of harvesting happening abroad, in places like China - from their death row inmates. Yet, here in the US, it has also found a foothold. Since 2004, when the proverbial cap came unscrewed, the truth behind the backroom deals was revealed; body harvesting has found a new home.

Each piece of the human cadaver
 has a  black market value.
Body brokering became the big news in 2004. USA Today published the article, There’s money in the business of body parts even including a handy-dandy graphic as to How the body can be used after death.  Even in 2012, CNN was still reporting on this phenomenon, during a segment with Nancy Grace (Surgeon Sells Funeral Home Body Parts).

After coming across this subject through Anne Cheney’s book, Body Brokers: Inside America’s Underground Trade in Human Remains, I started to pay attention and dig.

What once was known as body snatchers, grave robbers and the like are now body brokers, those that seek to gain profit off of the human remains of the deceased.  It is where urban legends begin to mix with reality (recently, the news contained segments about a young man's remains being exhumed and  PVC pipes had replaced his actual femurs; and, a missing young men was located missing his vital organs).

According to the United Nations, “Trafficking in organs is a crime that occurs in three broad categories. Firstly, there are cases where traffickers force or deceive the victims into giving up an organ. Secondly, there are cases where victims formally or informally agree to sell an organ and are cheated because they are not paid for the organ or are paid less than the promised price. Thirdly, vulnerable persons are treated for an ailment, which may or may not exist and thereupon organs are removed without the victim's knowledge. The vulnerable categories of persons include migrants, especially migrant workers, homeless persons, illiterate persons, etc. It is known that trafficking for organ trade could occur with persons of any age. Organs which are commonly traded are kidneys, liver and the like; any organ which can be removed and used, could be the subject of such illegal trade.”

With organ harvesting tourism, that supports the trafficking, large sums of money are being exchanged. According to the Guardian, “Patients, many of whom will go to China, India or Pakistan for surgery, can pay up to $200,000 (nearly £128,000) for a kidney to gangs who harvest organs from vulnerable, desperate people, sometimes for as little as $5,000.

What we have is two-pronged problem: bodies being harvested for their parts, and the living being harvested for their organs. Each are part of the rise in human trafficking, the demand in healthy parts due to the rise of western diseases, such as diabetes, and the poverty of those who have nothing left to offer besides literal pieces of themselves. In the research I've done, I've even read about children being sneaked into western countries so that their young organs could be harvested.

This problem is only a small portion of the human trafficking agenda, which also includes prostitution, slavery and drug trafficking. Yet, where we find human trafficking, we also find a part of this equation of possibly helping save someone from such a fate.

How can you help stop human trafficking?

There are several ways to help combat this and save someone’s life, but it all starts with learning the red flags of human trafficking. According to the US Department of State, the following are some of the indicators of human trafficking:

·         Living with employer
·         Poor living conditions
·         Multiple people in cramped space
·         Inability to speak to individual alone
·         Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed
·         Employer is holding identity documents
·         Signs of physical abuse
·         Submissive or fearful
·         Unpaid or paid very little
·         Under 18 and in prostitution

Most localities provide assistance, through a non-emergency number, but you can also contact the U.S. Department of State at  the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888 (24/7) or the Department of Homeland Security at 1-866-347-2423 (24/7), or submit a tip online at, or from the U.S. Department of Justice at 1-888-428-7581 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (EST). 


Tina Glasneck, author
I hope you enjoyed today's installment. At Murderer's Market, I am still trying to catch my stride as to my brand, but I hope by choosing to share some of the information I've gained through my research, you too will be inspired to learn and help.

Research is an opportunity to learn something new, and in creating my upcoming release, Angels Cry, I chose the topic of body brokering. During my time of attending the Citizens' Police Academy, I've gained so much insight as to what it means to keep an eye open and watch out for myself and those around me.  The organizations and services as provided by the localities, state and even at the federal levels are there to assist us. The more knowledge we gain, the more we are able to assist.


  1. It never ceases to amaze me the depths to which human beings can sink in their treatment of each other (and other living creatures). Thanks, Tina, for bringing this to light.

    1. I think my research is taking me to different worlds and I can't help but shed light on that which I find. Thanks for commenting, Leah! :)

  2. Nasty topic Tina, yet I'm glad these things don't get shoved under the rug because they are so distasteful. Keep shining your light.

    1. Thanks Elvy. I'm trying to find my stride and value in what I present. I think knowledge is power, and can truly change the world we live in.