How Much is Your Dead Body Worth?

2008, Society  -   35 Comments
Ratings: 8.12/10 from 17 users.

How Much is Your Dead Body Worth?When veteran broadcaster Alistair Cooke died in 2004 few suspected that he was yet to uncover his greatest story. What happened to his body as it lay in a funeral home would reveal a story of modern day grave robbery and helped smash a body-snatching ring that had made millions of dollars by chopping up and selling-off over 1000 bodies. Dead bodies have become big business.

Each year millions of people's lives are improved by the use of tissue from the dead. Bodies are used to supply spare parts, and for surgeons to practice on.

Horizon investigates the medical revolution that has created an almost insatiable demand for body parts and uncovers the growing industry and grisly black market that supplies human bodies for a price. (Excerpt from

More great documentaries

35 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Jason

    Growing organs in petri dishes makes the most sense, it will be clean and made just for you - except its very expensive.

    That guy deserves the jail time! Stealing is wrong! People need to give their permission, and if their religion doesn't approve of it, its their choice! There are lots of bodies. No need to make it law or to force everyone to donate!

  2. Jason

    Criminals have to be put away! If they do illegal unhealthy things, where does it stop? What if they sell the remaining body to a butcher, and the meat lands on your plate for dinner? You would never know??? Illegal activities happen because some people are greedy, and they don't know when to stop! I'm all for regulated organ donation!

  3. Sébastien Talbot-Vachon

    Why do they show the butchering of bodies in this video, is this really necessary?!

    1. Alexandru Matei

      It's part of the show :))

  4. Sarah Stewart

    ironically aids can't live outside the body so really there is no concern there, however I understand the standards of why they don't pass on those body parts.

  5. ThePhilhw

    Great documentary.
    In death we can live.

  6. knowledgeizpower

    wow shocking....i think that donating is a good thing to do...but okay with those that are selling bodies illegally that could have diseases and then those body parts being put into living people in which causes them to become infected with those diseases thats scary...

  7. awdiamondbar

    Often these comment areas complicate simple matters. I was put here to make the world a better place. I must ask myself if I am called to do so in this fashion. My God would not object, I feel, if I chose to donate part of my temple..He/She would not refuse my joining Him/Her in the afterlife....

  8. afly_on_the_wall

    there needs to be a shift in thinking...
    i bet if the preachers got up on stage on Sunday morning and told "the masses" god thinks its good to be a donor. their would be a rush on the market.

    so sad ;(

    think for your self if you can

    1. juiceman99

      While God and his word's are very easy to understand,He gave me a brain to think for myself and to choose what i may.

  9. Fractal

    I have always known that I would be a donor and I have also told my family of my wishes upon my exit from this world. I just hope my organs, tissues and anything else that comprises my body can help save lives. Please become a donor, you can save a life!

  10. Charles B.

    I'm an organ donor (in the U.S.) but I want them to make sure I'm totally dead before they start cutting. I'm thinking about changing that as they said the heart has to still be beating to harvest living organs.

    But, then again, if I needed an organ or my kids needed one, I'd be so anxious for a donor to come along that was "kind enough" to think of that, and provide it for us--apart from a miracle of God in healing, which is also a valid possibility.

    This was a very good documentary. Makes me want to be a doctor.

  11. Templeofsound


    You're more than welcome... glad I have finally.....oh....wait a were being sarcastic!! Once again, brilliant!! I had mistaken you for being intelligent enough to read between the lines and not needing me to ellaborate too much on the point that sentence was trying to make. But I'm sorry, I can't be arsed to put any more effort into it, considering you have concrete evidence to prove your totally non bizarre certainty. What could possibly be the point?

    When you can drag yourself away from dictionaries, please can give me and other possibly interested lost souls, these "facts" that you have examined to reach your accurate and conclusive answers to these questions?

    PS: I will assume that facts not provided will mean there are no real facts for others to investigate. ie, Pseudo-facts?

  12. Yellow Woods Traveler


    Epiphany with a capital "E" does have something to do with divine beings, but epiphany as a word just means, "a moment of sudden and great revelation or realization" (according to the Oxford English Dictionary). As for "epiphanous" it is a word according to Merriam-Webster. However, Oxford doesn't list it, preferring instead "epiphanic". In any case, "cathartic" was the wrong word.

    As to your question of what happens to me after I "depart this world" the simple answer is that I won't. No one does! I die, I rot, my physical body returns to being a part of the web of life on this planet. It's beautiful in its simplicity, far more so I think than the idea that I will be taken out of life to my "reward". The idea of departure is a logical fallacy.

    I don't "believe" anything. I examine the facts and so far they don't support the existence of divine beings or an afterlife. They do support evolution. You seem to think that I refuse to believe in god/creation/afterlife but that's not the case at all, I just don't see any evidence for any of them. If that evidence (demonstrated, corroborated and peer-reviewed) should be found then sure, I'll change my schema!

    That's the way of the scientific method in a nutshell right there.

    @ Templeofsound,

    "I also love the way that you are assuming that I am being arrogant for being human, but yet you believe there is a creator that has put us at the top of the food chain. Brilliant." <Loved that, had to repeat it. Your response was very well written, thank-you!

  13. Templeofsound


    I really love how people can pick and choose as to what science they find nonsense, what they find fascinating, what they take for granted and what is acceptable.

    The evidence for evolution is absolutely everywhere. WHy would anyone create human beings with the physical and emotional errors that exist. Look up how your eye is constructed and compare it to what would have been a more accurate making of the eye. Perhaps compare your findings of that compared to an eagle's eye. Why would they have a eye that sees so much better than us, other than absolutely needing to, to survive.....EVOLUTION. THis is just a total random example in a whole lifetime of examples.

    I also love the way that you are assuming that I am being arrogant for being human, but yet you believe there is a creator that has put us at the top of the food chain. Brilliant.

    Our consciousness and intellect is a result of millions of years of chance and evolution.

    Regarding your questions about "Do i think there is a creator?".....who the hell knows......I cannot answer that. But I'm not willing to just drop all the evidence around me to lazily say "oh you know what, there is a creator and things happened, and here we are.....Story DONE."

    Open your tunnel vision, research more documentaries on evolution and come to a reasnable and intelligent answer to your questions.

    Science doesn't have the arrogance (mostly speaking) of trying to claim that it holds all the answers. It is probably more the case that it continually keeps proving the amount it doesnt know. However in that process, there is evidence uncovered that CANNOT be disputed. This is evidence i suggest you look into.

  14. Jana

    Yellow woods Traveller

    BTW there is no such word as "epiphanous "that i can find. There is Epiphanies and Epiphany - which means sudden appearance of a God or understanding what Gods laws are thru Divine cultivating in that law!

    May I ask you where your place in the universe is? If you say "this world" then may i ask you what you believe happens to you after you depart this world? Do you die completely or ?

  15. Jana

    Yes i guess we really did come from a random bunch of molecules, that evolved into apes and then we evolved from apes into Humans .. Such nonsense.

    Think about it- scientists today have been trying to create life by randomly placing particles of matter into peter dishes so that they can expertly come together to create life as we know it. Millions and millions of experiments produce nothing. So you think we were produced buy this random theory? This is the theory of evolution...

    I'm not saying we should believe what the churches say.. Goodness knows they have ruined humankind in so many fundamental ways and they have lot to answer for. But there is a Creator, there are Gods Buddhas and Daos and many multi levels of the heavens/cosmos. This is not fantasy as many well known enlightened beings have come to earth to teach the law when human kind needed it the most.. LaoTsu, Confucius, Buddha Jesus etc..These are historical people that actually existed...

    1. Jasmine Lowe

      Lol, "peter dishes?" I think you mean "petri dishes" hun.

    2. Jammy Jackson

      actually, we're already able to produce organic matter from inorganic matter. abiogenesis. been done for years. read science sometime and get your head out of the clouds.

  16. Yellow Woods Traveler

    Wow. I hadn't yet got around to signing my body over to science because I'm young and it just didn't seem to be that pressing. Since then I've had brain surgery. I know I have a bone-paste plug in the hole in my skull. I know that my surgeon didn't develop his skills just by reading books. This documentary really brought home to me just how important it is that I sign my donor card. Someone's life could depend on it. Mine did and I have a donor to thank for that!

    As for "cathartic" experiences (are you sure you didn't mean "epiphanous", Jana?), I had mine with my health crisis. It made me acutely aware of my place in the universe. Facing reality is the only way forward, not dwelling in some sitcom-inspired fantasy world.

  17. Jana

    HI Templeofsound,

    You will probably remember this conversation when its your time. Human beings think they are so civilized with their theories of evolution from apes and there being no creator in this magnificent universe - one of millions... I hope you have some really cathartic experience in your life which will help you to remember who created you.

    Best wishes , I hope you find your templeofsound!

  18. Templeofsound

    @ jana

    I think the point people are trying to make is that your point is pointless.

    Your views of the afterlife, while mystical and magical and all very lovely, do not make much sense to someone who's actually thought about it properly.

    So your body needs to be complete for one to be at peace in the afterlife? So what would happen to a person who is attacked and eaten by a pack of lions?

    Its the same mentality as people who believe in meeting up with relatives in the afterlife. Say you are married for 10 loving years and your spouse dies, then you find love again and re-marry and spend ten years with them and then they die. The you die.....who do you meet up with??? Do you suddenly have 2 souls, one for each wife, or are you now married to 2 wives?

    What if i eat a steak and kidney the animal attached to me until i die?

    Total nonsense.

  19. Jana

    So Laura and Lol I take it you have no belief in a creator?

  20. Sarah

    Silkop "20 years prison time for making a living off chopping up DEAD bodies in the 21st century? Religion really stinks."

    Or 20 years for endangering lives, fraud and embezzlement. I don't think religion plays into this

    As an anatomy student I know how absolutely vital donated bodies are, and the illegal market and dangers associated with it sicken me. I am thankful and incredibly respecting of those who donate, and whose cadavers I have worked on.

  21. Laura

    Facinating! I will absolutely donate my body when I die. I was just going to be cremated anyway. I don't want to be buried... you run the risk of waking up. :(

    lol and no Jana, I don't watch "Ghost Whisperer". I prefer to form my system of beliefs and values from the real world, not a fantasy show.

  22. Lol

    Lol @ Jana

    I went to the ATM the other day to check out how much my Karma balance is........damnit.. I still owe like 6 billion points

  23. Terry

    I don't find a problem with donating cadavers. If you shirk away from the possibility of being a donor because of the morbidity of the act, you don't have to be there when it happens. If my body parts that I don't require anymore can save people's lives through a study in university or through a donor, I would gladly give it up.

  24. Raya

    Caroline Harris: My heart goes out to you along with a metaphorical hug. An awful thing to have to go through.

  25. Syly1212

    WOWIE! I have already pre-paid for cremation for when i die!

    Donating my body sounds like a realistic alternative. At least some good will come from my death.

    I wonder if I can get a refund on my pre-paid for cremation?

  26. Caroline Harris

    I lost my father on Boxing Day. It's been bothering me about where his eyes went and god knows what else. He died of heart failure but his doctor wouldn't sign the death certificate without an autopsy and thus he was wisked away for 5 days. I had wanted his corneas to be saved for me as I have an eye condition that can be treated with them. I feel robbed of the only gidt that would have really meant something to me.

  27. Raya

    I removed my name from the Donate Life DMV list after watching this documentary a few years ago.

  28. silkop

    20 years prison time for making a living off chopping up DEAD bodies in the 21st century? Religion really stinks.

  29. Southern Tier Western NY

    I never wanted to be a donor but after this I'm thinking its common sense to flood the market. Just to think that what you do today can help many in the future. I received a donation back in 84 without it my chances of children were 0. Today my son is 17 and I am Thankful..

  30. DewkChronic

    Thats why you don't sign your organ donor card. Just maybe the Dr's need your parts cuz you may be a minority or someone else they may deem lower then thm.