Buying Human Remains: Surprisingly Legal, Surprisingly Easy

That is, if you live in the US

Valentine Wiggin

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Harvard Medical School has had a recent scandal that involved the sale of human remains. Six people: Cedric Lodge, Katrina Maclean, Joshua Taylor, Denise Lodge, Matthew Lampey, and Jeremy Pauley were charged on “conspiracy and interstate transport of stolen goods”. Harvard’s morgue scandal was part of a larger underground network of people buying and selling human remains.

These sales did not take place on some shady corner of the dark web or seedy back-alley. They took place on PayPal and some of these individuals even displayed their curated collections on social media. But how? Surely such a thing is illegal, right?

Legality

The truth is that laws regarding the sale of human remains are more complicated than that. Although the sale of whole human bodies is generally prohibited, laws regarding the sale of human body parts are quite variable and murky. Laws in the USA famously vary by state and therefore have different loopholes that may enable people to buy and sell various human body parts.

For example, in Massachusetts, the state in which Harvard is located, Chapter 272 section 72 of Massachusetts law outright prohibits the sale and trafficking of human bodies. However, since this law does not say anything about parts such as bones, organs, or other tissues, many human body traffickers exploit this technicality.

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Valentine Wiggin

Death-positive, sex-positive, and LGBTQ-affirming Christian. Gen Z. I hate onions. She/her