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Buono-Vitale Bill To Protect Against ‘Body Snatchers’

Legislation to Criminalize Harvesting and Selling Body Parts for Profit Approved by Senate

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Barbara Buono and Joseph F. Vitale which would criminalize the harvesting and selling for profit of human remains was approved by the full Senate today by a vote of 39-0.

“We’ve seen perverse cases in recent news of opportunistic people plundering corpses and selling body parts to turn a quick profit,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “In these cases, after desecrating the corpses, they sell the body parts for transplantation or medical therapy, without any safeguard or proper medical screening. This bill is necessary, to protect patients from receiving unsafe transplantations and to assure families that their deceased loved ones’ corpses will not be desecrated.”

Under the bill, S-2032, knowingly purchasing or selling a human body part contrary to the deceased’s final wishes would carry a penalty of three to five years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $50,000. Falsifying anatomical gift documents, used to donate body parts for medical use, for financial gain, would carry penalties of five to ten years imprisonment, and/or a fine of up to $50,000. Stealing human remains by deception or falsification of a gift document would carry penalties including a term of imprisonment from 10 to 20 years and/or a fine of up to $200,000.

According to the sponsors, the bill was crafted in response to litigation involving Biomedical Tissue Services, a now-defunct New Jersey company that has been accused of stealing and selling body parts from corpses, including former “Masterpiece Theatre” host Alistair Cooke. About 10,000 people have received tissue transplantations provided by the company.

“It’s unethical, and bordering on ghoulish, to harvest body parts and sell them for medical use, without proper screening and contrary to the deceased persons’ wishes,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chair of the Senate Health Committee. “When a family lays a loved one to rest, there is a sense of security in knowing that you have dutifully honored the person’s final wishes. However, when those final wishes are betrayed by a profiteer looking to cash in on organ donations, we need strong penalties to ensure that justice is done.”

The bill now heads to the full Assembly for consideration.

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