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Article: Calculating The Value Of Human Tissue Donation : NPR

July 30, 2012

I came across an interesting exposé about the differences between organ and tissue donation in the US. And when I refer to it as en exposé, I mean it’s exactly what it says on the tin.

Americans who choose to donate their body parts for the possibility of saving someone’s life may be dismayed to find out that their tissues and organs could instead be making a corporation profit. I don’t know if there is for-profit tissue harvesting in Canada but I expect not given the Uniform Conference Law of Canada. 

According to the Human Tissue Donation Act of 1990 (, tissue that is removed for the purposes of (and under consent for) transplant to a living human may not be used for other purposes and will be disposed of, unless there is express consent for therapeutic/educational/scientific purposes. Furthermore, under the section Commerce Prohibited, the selling or buying of tissue is unlawful and will result in a $100 000 fine and/or 1 year imprisonment. The exception is to any dealings that were legal prior to the Act so long as the Act is complied with (aka sounds like it would be impossible).

As a Canadian, I’ll be an organ or tissue donor should my bits be suitable. The idea of bones hauled out of me or skin shaped off does not alarm me, as long as some other person can benefit. 

Read for yourself:

Calculating The Value Of Human Tissue Donation : NPR

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Janet permalink
    July 30, 2012 5:53 pm

    Every Science student should read: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. People have made millions from her cells, and her family couldn’t afford basic health care.

    • July 30, 2012 6:09 pm

      thanks Janet, I hadn’t heard about her – I’ll have to have a look. The link to the book for anyone reading is

      “Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.

      Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

      Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia—a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo—to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells. “

  2. August 1, 2012 10:53 pm

    Amazing and wow….
    I have a very squeamish response to corporations profiting from my very cells!!

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