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Transplant Terror: Life-Saving Tissue or Ticking Time Bomb?
by Leigh Zaykoski

In 2004, dozens of tissue banks and biomedical engineering firms recalled human tissue that had been processed over a two-year time span. From 2003-2005, these firms distributed vital organs and other human tissue that had been received from all over the United States. The reason for the recall? The tissue had been obtained illegally from cadavers and other sources and had not been tested for life-threatening illnesses such as AIDS and Hepatitis.

The cast of characters in this real-life horror includes mortuary employees, greedy biotech firms, and even hospital laboratory workers. Instead of burying the deceased with their tissues present, these crooks remove their organs and bones and replace them with heavy materials designed to disguise the fact that the bodies have been tampered with. A popular trick is using pipe to replace bone tissue – it’s just as heavy and very durable, so there’s a low risk of getting caught.

Once the tissues have been removed and replaced with pipe and other inorganic materials, the organs and tissue types are sold to biotechnology firms that are trying to keep up with the demand for life-saving tissue. Tissues are supposed to be screened extensively for diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis, and other life-threatening conditions. In this case, tissues are not screened and are distributed to hospitals and clinics for transplantation. Once transplanted into unsuspecting recipients, the tainted tissues are a lethal weapon.

Some lucky recipients never develop a problem and never become aware of the tainted tissues. Others are not so lucky. These unlucky ones are afflicted with a wide range of diseases and conditions, all because of a few greedy criminals. Avoid coming into contact with tainted tissue by doing the following:

Work only with reputable physicians and healthcare facilities.

The high cost of medical care is daunting, especially if you don’t have insurance. It may be tempting to use an unknown physician or a small facility to save money. Don’t cut corners where it counts. Find a transplant physician with excellent credentials and a facility with a stellar reputation.

Ask questions.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about where your tissues were harvested and processed. Information is one of your best defenses, so gather your ammunition and use it carefully.

Stay informed.

Stay informed about the issue of tainted transplant tissue by monitoring the news and scientific websites to find out about recalls as they happen. For most people, a recall will never be an issue, but your best bet is to be vigilant and be prepared to act should a tainted tissue problem arise.

Published: Jul 14,2008 10:29
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