The Sidney Hillman Foundation has announced that a 13-journalist team led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has won the August Sidney Award for "Skin and Bone," a sweeping investigation of the largely unregulated global trade in human tissues.
Skin And Bone: The Shadowy Trade In Human Body Parts was an eight-month project that found the business of recycling dead humans has grown so large over the past decade that you can buy stock in publicly traded companies that rely on corpses for their raw materials.
Skin and bones donated by relatives of the dead are turned into everything from bladder slings to surgical screws to material used in dentistry or plastic surgery.
Distributors of the merchandise can be found in much of the world. Some are subsidiaries of billion-dollar multinational medical corporations.
The ICIJ team for "Skin and Bones" consisted of Gerard Ryle, Kate Willson, Vlad Lavrov, Martina Keller, Thomas Maier, Michael Hudson, Mar Cabra, Kimberley Porteous, David Donald, Alexenia Dimitrova, and Nari Kim. NPR reporters Joseph Shapiro and Sandra Bartlett also contributed.
Inquiries were conducted across 11 countries and the project was co-researched with National Public Radio and Newsday (USA), the Kiev Post (Ukraine), The Daily Slovakia (Slovakia) and La Voce della Repubblica Ceca (Czech Republic).
The ICIJ's investigation relied on more than 200 interviews with industry insiders, government officials, surgeons, lawyers, ethicists and convicted felons, as well as thousands of court documents, regulatory reports, criminal investigation findings, corporate records and internal company memos.
"Recycled human tissue has the power to heal, but the unregulated market for tissue also has great potential to harm. The ICIJ investigation explores this multifaceted issue with great rigor and great compassion," said Sidney judge Lindsay Beyerstein.