Body Brokers: Inside America’s Underground Trade in Human Remains

Annie Cheney

Starting with a price list (in which a head, a brainless head and a brain are worth at least $500 each) and ending with a chapter that explains how contaminated cadaver tissue gets implanted in unwitting patients, this is a scary, disgusting, fascinating book. The product of a three-year investigation, it expands on an article first published in Harper’s magazine. “As soon as you die, you’re mine” is just one of the many creepy quotes Annie Cheney includes to demonstrate the attitudes of those involved in merchandizing dead human bodies. She reports how bodies are diverted from medical-school donations, crematoria and embalming rooms to be sold at enormous profit. Persuasively, she argues that as long as this trade remains poorly regulated, no body is safe.