Elbows Deep in the Cash

Michael Mastromarino knows what pain is. He was, in better times, a dental surgeon. One of those people you are scared of in the worst possible way. They use these torture instruments to delve into your sensitive mouth. The mouth you eat with. The mouth you use to sing in the shower. To please your lover. He's in there ... digging.

Mouths weren't the only thing he dug, either.

Mastromarino was the leader of a New York based body snatching ring. Its motive? Greed. Pure and simple. The people in the ring stole bones, skin, ligaments and other assorted human sundries. A great many of the parts were used for dental implants and hip replacements. To keep from getting nabbed, these guys deboned the bodies below the waist, sewed in good ol' PVC piping and let the families view the body at open casket funerals. While Aunt Susan was sobbing, the parts were being sold and ended up being used in over 20,000 transplants.

Oh yeah, these guys failed to screen the goodies for disease.

Diseased organs is a worrisome issue. In early 2008 two Americans died and two others were getting chemo after getting organs the year earlier courtesy of a teen who died of a rare form of cancer. It was thought he had died of meningitis. The folks who received his pancreas and liver died of the same cancer that claimed him.

All for a little money, right.

It should also be noted that I could find no evidence that any of the parts Mastromarino sold caused any deaths, though I didn't delve into it too deeply. This is not a subject I spend a lot of time thinking about. I had just happened to read an issue of The Economist that focused on the market for illegally obtained organs. It was fascinating and disgusting. Those lips you got off a girl who died in a car accident? Who knows if they were obtained with permission.

There's something very sinister about that. Something very symbolic, too. This is capitalism at its finest. Greed is good. Gore is good. If it can be sold, it will be stolen. If there is money to be made, there is blood to be spilled. Body snatching, which used to be a very commonplace crime, now has gone high tech ... sort of. The bodies are obtained much the same way, but the outcome is different. They are no longer being studied. They are being pieced out. They are being harvested. So what if nobody screens for rare, creepy forms of cancer. What's the odds of those eight deformed cells doing you any damage? Slim, indeed. But not slim enough.

And people ask me why I don't donate. My response? Does it matter?

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