A father in Illinois is still trying to get his daughter’s body back, five years after believing he was donating it to science, only to find out the setup was run by alleged black market “body brokers”.
John Butsch’s daughter Alexandria died suddenly aged 26 in 2014, CBS 2 Chicago reports. Luckily, despite being so young, she had made her wishes clear about what she wanted to happen to her body after death – she wanted to be donated to science.
Butsch’s family honored her decision and chose the Biological Resource Center of Illinois, thinking it was a legitimate facility for dealing with donated bodies. Why wouldn’t they? In many states in the US, it is perfectly legal to buy, sell, and distribute human body parts that have been donated to science and medicine.
It is, however, illegal to sell organs for transplants or knowingly infected body parts, and this is where the largely unregulated industry starts to get grim.
Five years ago, the Biological Resource Center of Illinois, also a crematorium, run by Donald A. Greene Sr and son, was raided by the FBI after rumored links between the facility and jailed body broker Arthur Rathburn of Detroit, now serving nine years for knowingly selling infected body parts.
This led the FBI to Greene Sr and Greene Jr, who allegedly sold parts on the black market between 2008 and 2014. According to a search warrant, some that tested positive for HIV, hepatitis, and sepsis were sold for upwards of $100,000. On top of this, bodies donated to science for research, education, and training purposes, as per the wishes of the deceased, were being dismembered and sold elsewhere and their families lied to.
Federal charges brought against the two earlier this month include wire fraud and intentionally concealing a crime. The prosecutors said the people who bought the bodies – including the Detroit Medical Center’s sports medicine department, who bought at least one specimen that had previously tested positive for hepatitis, which was then concealed by the Greenes – did so not knowing they had infectious diseases.
Though the cremation facility has been shut down, Greene Sr is still a licensed funeral director and embalmer in Illinois, although this is currently under review.
One of the saddest parts of this story is the question of what happens to people’s loved ones when body broker schemes get busted?
Butsch told CBS 2 Chicago, “I’m fairly stoic about these things, but it’s painful.” He explained that though they had received some ashes said to be Alexandria’s, he doubted it as investigators have confirmed parts of her body were removed from the Center when it was raided in 2014 and brought to a federal holding place in Detroit where the case is being investigated.
“If they had cremated her there would be no parts to take to Detroit,” he said. “So those ashes couldn’t be hers.”
Nearly five years after the case first started, and no closer to getting his daughter back, Butsch has created a support group for other families in the same position, though he knows where they really need to address the issue.
“I would like to think there is a community of us that can sit down with our senators and our representatives and say, ‘Look, we have to control this industry or we’ve got to forbid it,'” he said.
Forbidding anything runs the risk of increasing its desirability and value and encouraging black market activity, however. If you want to leave your body to science, the Anatomical Board of the State of Florida maintains an index of donor programs, universities, and medical facilities in each state that can be contacted directly.
[H/T: CBS 2 Chicago]