The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists is launching a major investigation this week – our first since we reported on the devastation of fish stocks in the Pacific in January.
A team of reporters spent eight months, across 11 countries, to explore the little-known trade in medical implants made from cadavers.
We 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 many items that are used routinely in certain kinds of hospital operations, in dentistry and plastic surgery.
Distributors of the merchandise can be found all over the world. Some are subsidiaries of billion-dollar, multinational medical corporations.
We found patients aren’t always told that the product they are getting originated from a corpse.
This led us to an even more complex issue – how the industry sources the raw material it uses for its products.
Why do these investigative reports take so long to compile? Quite simply, very few organizations do this kind of deep, labor-intensive journalism any longer. Many larger media organizations have backed away from it because of its difficulty and high financial cost.
The work is not easy and much of it is very unglamorous. Our reporters painstakingly pored over thousands of police and court documents, corporate filings, and internal memos of companies involved in the trade.
They conducted more than 200 interviews with everyone from industry officials to surgeons, ethicists and convicted felons.
And, as is our signature, we did it across many jurisdictions and across several languages. One of the criteria we use is that an issue must cross international borders.
What we do is unique and is increasingly under threat as media organizations around the world continue to downsize and back away from investigative reporting. Therefore we appreciate your readership and the public support we receive.
I invite you to sign up for our email newsletter to be the first to read this project when it launches.