Body Broker Aspires to 'World's Greatest Deliberative Body'


Under the headline "GOP Senate hopeful got rich diverting corpsemeat from burn victims to enlarge penises," boingboing relays this Markos Moulitsas report:

Following the sale of his prominent Sioux Falls family's surety bond company, [former South Dakota lieutenant governor and potential Senate candidate] Kirby branched out into more exotic business terrain when he founded Bluestern Venture Capital in 1992. Among Bluestern's portfolio companies was a Massachusetts-based biotech firm called Collagenesis — a company whose business model couldn't have been more foreign to the stolid world of South Dakota surety bonding.

Collagenesis specialized in processing donated skin off cadavers into cosmetic surgery products, and was subject to a blistering five-part investigative series by the Orange County Register beginning on April 17, 2000. "Burn victims lie waiting in hospitals as nurses scour the country for skin to cover their wounds, even though skin is in plentiful supply for plastic surgeons," read the lede of the Register report. "The skin they need to save their lives is being used instead for procedures that could wait: supporting bladders, erasing laugh lines and enlarging penises."

Suffice it to say that penis enlargement represented a slight departure from the Kirby family's traditional business of bonding hard-working Sioux Falls mason contractors.

This narrative about biomedical companies taking skin from burn centers has never made much sense to me. Yes, it's true that corporations like Lifecell don't lack for corpses, and some burn centers suffer for lack of donors. But the body parts going to LifeCell are available because LifeCell incentivizes middlemen to scour nursing homes and hospitals for willing donors. It's not as if there is a fixed pool of donated cadavers, everyone jumps in, and burn centers come up short. And the potential supply of skin donors is huge, because, in contrast to organ donation, almost any cadaver will do.

That said, few of the people donating their bodies to various skin banks are aware that they're about to become lip filler. Brokers, who need to offer a motivation to donate but can't offer payment by law, ply potential donors with images of child burn victims. The business model is built on dishonesty. And it's worth noting that Kirby decided to invest in the process after the Register expose appeared.

My report on Alistair Cooke, LifeCell, and penis enlargement is here. 

NEXT: Of Gold and Empire

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  1. Regardless of how the election turns out, this is an historic event for this nation: the first time a major party nominates a Bene Tleilax Master for the Senate.

  2. reason sucks

  3. Did someone get up on the wrong side of the Intartubez this morning, Guy?

  4. "Guy" appears to be part of a conspiracy. He must be one of those Bilderbergers

  5. So is that pronounced "Gee" with a hard G, like the French?

  6. joe wins the thread on the first post

    great Dune reference

  7. I think there is some bad science in this allegation. The supposed uses that the "skin" is being diverted to, "supporting bladders, erasing laugh lines and enlarging penises", don't actually use skin at all but rather collagen, a connective protein found throughout the body. Most medical collagen comes from animals, not human corpses. Even if someone wanted human collagen, they would extract it from bones, tendons, and ligament, not the skin. (The process involves a blender)

    Burn victims by contrast need large sheets of intact skin. I would think that optional cosmetic surgery would never us transplanted skin because, like all transplants, it requires a lifetime of immunosuppressants. Even skin used for temporary bandaging can provoke an immune reaction.

    I don't think the original reporter knew what she was writing about.

  8. I thought the world's greatest body deliberation was won by Jessica Alba.

  9. Shannon Love,

    Alloderm, a substance commonly used in lip augmentation and various other procedures, is indeed derived from cadaveric tissue. I'm told its superior to animal-derived collagen, but that may just be plastic surgeons talking up their preferred materials.

  10. Epi, pregnancy has struck. Deliberations are back on.

  11. Then let the deliberations begin! We will need to see evidence presented by the candidates.

  12. Let's nominate candidates. I'll start with Odette Yustman. She's as pretty as her name is awkward.

    Link is SFW, the parent website may or may not be.

  13. I refuse to be so juvenile as to nominate girls for being the hottest. I require them to nominate themselves, preferably while drunk.

  14. Episiarch,

    Just remember, you forced me into this...

    Formal Airing of Grievance

  15. Kerry Howley,

    Alloderm, a substance commonly used in lip augmentation and various other procedures, is indeed derived from cadaveric tissue.

    You're correct, I looked it up. It's human skin with everything but the connective tissues removed. It provides a scaffolding for the growth of new tissue Collogenisis makes a product Dermaplant Dermal Allograft which appears to be the same thing.

    I'm still rather dubious that a lot of overlap exist between the skin that could be used for allograft and the skin needed to treat burn victims. It looks like allografts could be made from any skin, diseased or and in any size. Burn grafts by comparison need to be fresh, large and disease free.

    I think the problem with burn grafts is the same as with other transplants, you need a subtle donor to die within specific time window.

  16. I, too, grieve for formal airings, SugarFree.

  17. Sorry, did some more research. This is from an article from 2000 in the Orange County register.

    Collagenesis Inc. in Massachusetts is another company that has been criticized for making a cosmetic-surgery product from skin while burn centers go without. One of its consultants, Kurt Klitzke, said Sunday that the company is starting a new program called "Burns First," which asks all of its partners to make skin available to burn centers before selling it to Collagenesis. By using a tool the company helped develop, tissue banks can take one layer of skin for burn grafts and another for the company's products, which include devices for repairing vocal chords and bladders.

    "The debate about whether there's a shortage has worn thin," Klitzke said. "Insuring a steady, uninterrupted supply of skin to burn centers is more important than anything. We need to listen to what the burn centers are saying."

    Those bastards!

    Obviously the story is a little more complex than Moulitsas would lead us to believe. It would be interesting to know what the current situation is now, six years later.

  18. Well, then I guess you don't care about my 2nd nomination, Jessica Lucas.

    SFW, but you might want to cut a small hole in a paper plate and just project her onto a sheet of paper for safety purposes.

  19. I was drinking coffee and about to eat a morning danish when I read Shannon Love's 12:03.

    Thanks for assist on getting me back to the diet plan, Shannon! 🙂

  20. Is there a way to simply grow skin in a vat or something?

  21. Kerry Howley's article is a clue to solving the TV serial Lost. It explains how corpses could've been borrowed to creat a "crash scene". One of the "crash victims" was said to have been a tissue donor.

  22. Is there a way to simply grow skin in a vat or something?

    I'm guessing you haven't seen David Cronenberg's Rabid, or you wouldn't even suggest that.


  24. Scytale for Senate 2008!

  25. SF, hold on the airing of grievances for ten more months.

  26. "Did you steal dead skin for burned babies for penis enlargement?"

    Finally, "Do you still beat your wife?" has been supplanted.

  27. cgee,

    Formal grievances must be filed in a timely manner or they expire. Don't worry, Epi'll will get an earful during Festivus. Especially after his performance at the feats of strength last year.

  28. English word festive derives from fest?vus, which in turn derives from festus "joyous; holiday, feast day". (from the wikipeida link supplied by cgee 2:12)

    So that's where Marshal Dillon's sidekick Festus got his name - thought it came from "festered" or "festering" because his beard always looked to me like it was diseased or something... but I was just a kid at the time.

  29. Did Shannon Love write that skin-graft recipients need immunosuppressants for the rest of their lives?

    Is that true?

  30. "Suffice it to say that penis enlargement represented a slight departure from the Kirby family's traditional business of bonding hard-working Sioux Falls mason contractors."

    Did someone say . . . Masons?

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