The headquarters of MedCure, one of the nation’s largest body brokers, was raided in Portland, Oregon last week. After executing their search warrant, the building was sealed, and federal agents have now seized their records in relation to an inquiry about the how MedCure distributes the body parts it has acquired from donors.
FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele confirmed the agency’s search of the huge MedCure facility. Citing a source “familiar with the matter,” Reuters says the FBI took records from the facility, but did not remove human remains.
The search warrant at MedCure is sealed, but it is a sign that an FBI investigation of the company is advancing. In order to obtain a search warrant to seize records, agents must provide a detailed affidavit to a U.S. magistrate with evidence to support probable cause that crimes have been committed and that related records may be on the premises, according to Reuters.
Companies that are known as “body brokers” trade in body parts. While organ donation is heavily regulated, and tissue banking is policed by the FDA, whole body donation is not monitored by any government agency. States have differing rules, which are enforced at varying levels of attention.
Due to the loophole, whole body donations may not go where donors think they will go. There are only six whole body donation businesses which are accredited in the U.S. At Anatomical Gift Association, a non-profit, all donations go to medical schools to be used for student and doctor education.
But the sale of body parts for profit is a growing concern in the United States. Without regulation, whole body donations to other organizations could be shady. While it is illegal to sell body parts for profit, Reuters stated that one of their reporters was able to purchase two heads and a spine from a Tennessee broker, after exchanging only a few emails.
MedCure is accredited by the American Association of Tissue Banks, and is also licensed by the state health departments in Oregon.
“MedCure is fully cooperating with the FBI, and looks forward to resolving whatever questions the government may have about their business,” said Jeffrey Edelson, a Portland attorney who represents the company. “Out of respect for the integrity of the process, we do not believe that further comment is appropriate at this time.”
According to the report, MedCure received more than 11,000 donated bodies and distributed more than 51,000 body parts to medical industry customers nationally, from 2011 through 2015. An additional 80,000 people have reportedly pledged to donate their bodies to MedCure when they die.
“There’s always the possibility for problems when you have an industry that’s unregulated,” said Kevin Cmunt, former president of the American Association of Tissue Banks.
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