Who regulates coroner, medical examiners and their facilities?


"Office of Butterworth & Sons, Undertaker...

“Office of Butterworth & Sons, Undertakers,” from brochure Seattle and the Orient (1900). The Butterworth firm (1892–1997) was, at that time, located at 1426–1428 Third Avenue. It soon relocated to a new building at 1921 First Avenue. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What should be a simple question has a complex answer. It is a question that the Federal Trade Commission, who regulates funeral homes, has no answer.

According to Craig Treguillus a Federal Trade Commission attorney, regulating death procedures has always been the responsibility of each state. 

“When appointed; the coroner or medical examiner answers to the agency that has the responsibility to hire them. If elected, then it is up to the people to vote on their eligibility in the next election”, Treguillus explained.

FTC only gets involved when there is a sale of goods or services like the funeral home business who sells coffins or services such as cremation”, Treguillus said.

A recent FTC investigation found a DC funeral home was negligent in providing a price list to families prior to showing them caskets as required under The Funeral Rule.  This Rule requires a “funeral home to give consumers a general price list itemizing the prices of the funeral goods and services they offer at the start of a discussion of funeral arrangements”, according to the FTC July 20,2012 press release.

Selling body parts – is that considered a sale of goods or

Money for human body parts, and international problem mostly unregulated


 Should regulation of coroners and medical examiner operations  fall under the Federal Trade Commission regulation due to a well hidden practice of selling body parts, skin tissue and organs of the deceased?  

Coroners and medical examiners, who have first access to deceased in many cases, have no government oversight,  state of federal, or accountability for a body once it arrives at their facility. 

An Arkansas headline:

“A shipment of up to 60 human heads and parts of heads; wrapped with duct tape and stuffed into plastic containers, has been seized at an Arkansas airport while cops determine whether the ghoulish cargo is involved in illicit body parts trade.

Investigators said the heads appeared to be “medical specimens” opening the door to whether authorities in Little Rock, Arkansas had inadvertently stumbled upon an “underground market” for human body parts. ABC News July 16, 2010.

The airport authorities became alarmed, according to the ABC news story when they opened the “opaque plastic containers” because they were “improperly labeled” and the accompanying documents did not indicate the contents of the containers.

The severed heads were being shipped by JLS Consulting LLC of Conway, Arkansas to a Fort Worth, Texas company, Medtronic. 

This company (Medtronic) , [headquartered in Minneapolis] manufactures medical devices.

Why was JLS Consulting LLC, shipping severed heads?

Where did they get them?  

Why were they wrapped in duct tape?  Is it difficult to x-ray through duct tape, making it less likely the strange cargo would be discovered? That alone should have set off many bells and whistles.

The heads were to be used in continuing education programs for physicians, according to the ABC News story.

“The trade in human body parts for continuing education is a multimillion dollar industry with virtually no federal oversight”, according to ABC news sources.

It is difficult to regulate the sale of human remains because the buyers are often large corporations that use cadavers to train physicians in new techniques with medical equipment they’ve developed, Todd Olson, a professor of anatomy at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, previously told ABC News.com.

The Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education is an organization that pairs surgeons with health companies for training in newly developed technologies, Olson said.  But the organization does not demand that body parts used in its courses and provided by corporations be properly obtained and tracked.. (Emphasis added)

Donating your body for research has a different connotation when you realize that the donation may be used, not by a medical school for experimentation, but for profit – lots of profit.

A disease free cadaver can produce as much as $200,000 according to a recent report. And, if the body was donated to the institution, that is all profit.  Certainly makes one wonder about accountability for the revenue, and reporting income by these tissue selling middlemen.

The sale of body parts is supposed to be regulated through the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FTC), but with an active black market trade it would be realistic to say that there is little oversight of this industry.

33 responses to this post.

  1. I remember reporting insurance co for 10 month delay in refund but FTC said all they do is record complaints and rec I contact consumer fraud Florida State Attorney.



    • Isn’t it lovely that politicians brag about their effectiveness to the ‘public’ but in reality only do their job when caught in a tight spot.

      Too many politicians and not enough dedicated people



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  19. Thanks for the information… I had no idea there was no oversight. It is a problem indeed.



    • There is no oversight or accountability and in most states the only qualification is a high school diploma. The power that is in the hands of the coroner is unlimited when it involves a death investigation. Until he/she refers it or declares it a suspicious death – nothing can be done. That is the situation we are dealing with in Penna in the death of my son. The coroner not only refused to give us the complete autopsy, they have denied the DA or local police the opportunity to investigate the source of the chemicals that may be a deadly hazard to anyone else that may come into contact with them.

      Until the source of the chemicals is known that hazard is still present in the community and workplace – and the coroner has no concern for that.



  20. […] Comment « Who regulates coroner, medical examiners and their facilities? […]



  21. Posted by Maria on July 25, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    This is a disturbing report, and the fact that there seems to be no oversight is doubly disturbing



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