Body Search: The Body Donation Law

Body Search: The Body Donation Law

Colorado’s new law regulates companies that solicit bodies donated to science and sell parts medical educators. This is in part due to a Reuters report made on a woman who operated a funeral home and body donation business from the same location.

Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors.

Megan Hess was the funeral director for Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors. Her firm was raided by the FBI in February after the Reuters report. Families that had loved ones under the care of Sunset Mesa were contacted by the FBI. Several family members were under suspicion that Sunset Mesa was illegally selling off body parts of the deceased.

Body Broker

The human organ marketplace is heavily regulated. The buying and selling of human cadavers is legal in the US through body brokers.

Acquiring cadavers is through donation. Funeral homes may offer families discounted funeral services for their donation. This tactic of acquiring cadavers offers a win-win for both parties. Families that can’t afford funeral services now have a means of doing so and funeral homes acquire a body for sale. With money involved, it leaves room for abuse of the system. Such as in the case of Sunset Mesa funeral home.

Grave robbing

After the FBI raid, state regulators closed the funeral home down. They discovered Sunset Mesa failed to maintain required cremation and final disposition records. One family had their deceased member’s ashes tested only to discover it was dry cement grains.

These actions have now entered grave robbing territory. By falsely or not even documenting cremations, Sunset Mesa was able to keep cadavers for sale. Basically, stealing from grieving families.

The New Law

The heinous acts of Sunset Mesa led Governor John Hickenlooper to consider legislation for funeral homes. It is illegal for funeral homes and body brokers to be owned by the same person. New qualifications and regulations are now in place for body brokers. Which is a first time for Colorado. Among the 40 states with legal body brokers, Colorado had no regulation up to this point.

Body brokers are now required to employ at least one person with two years of experience in the field and must maintain sanitary practices. Families receive receipts of donation and a disclosure that the human remains may be distributed whole or partial.

Brokers are required to keep records of transport of body parts that are distributed. Penalties to these new regulations are considered criminal misdemeanors with a maximum sentence of eighteen months.

Unregulated madness

It begs the question of how it took so long to crack down on a case like this. It has been documented of similar body snatching cases across the US. So why has there not been regulation put in place before for this easily abused system?

The new law is to be enforced some time around August 8. In that time, it would not be surprising to see more cases like Sunset Mesa arise. Now knowing how prevalent modern-day grave robbing is.

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About the Author: Alex Fisher