Since 2008, body parts from American donors have been exported to at least 45 nations. Demand is highest where customs limit selling or dissecting the dead.
PORTLAND, Oregon – On July 20, a Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship departed Charleston, South Carolina, carrying thousands of containers. One of them held a lucrative commodity: body parts from dozens of dead Americans.
According to the manifest, the shipment bound for Europe included about 6,000 pounds of human remains valued at $67,204. To keep the merchandise from spoiling, the container’s temperature was set to 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
The body parts came from a Portland business called MedCure Inc. A so-called body broker, MedCure profits by dissecting the bodies of altruistic donors and sending the parts to medical training and research companies.
MedCure sells or leases about 10,000 body parts from U.S. donors annually, shipping about 20 percent of them overseas, internal corporate and manifest records show. In addition to bulk cargo shipments to the Netherlands, where MedCure operates a distribution hub, the Oregon company has exported body parts to at least 22 other countries by plane or truck, the records show.