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Dutch drafting law to regulate trade in foreign body parts

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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The Dutch government is drafting legislation to regulate the trade in body parts after reports that hospitals were buying heads, knees and shoulders from U.S. companies known as “body brokers”, it said on Tuesday.

Reuters reported on Saturday that two Dutch hospitals were to stop importing human body parts from the U.S. companies due to ethical concerns about how donors are solicited and the vast profits made in the trade.

The law comes amid investigations by U.S. law enforcement into some of the “body brokers” – companies that obtain the dead, often through donation, dissect them and sell the parts for profit.

Some family members of donors did not realise the companies were selling the bodies for profit.

In questions in parliament in response to the Reuters article, Hanke Bruins Slot, a Christian Democrat member, said the Netherlands must ensure that body parts cannot become a commercial commodity.

“When it comes to the use of foreign bodies in the Netherlands there is a legal black hole. The companies are clearly taking advantage of this,” she said.

Health Minister Hugo de Jonge responded that a new law will “oblige researchers and people who handle human samples to ensure that there was informed consent” for commercial exploitation of donors’ bodies.

“People didn’t know what to expect, what they had agreed to,” he said.

“The fact that financial compensation was paid could lead people who are not so well off, who cannot afford a funeral, to feel obliged to chose this option and that’s not how we want to treat a human body.”

Dutch hospital Amsterdam Medical Center AMC said it had bought up to 500 heads from U.S. companies MedCure and Science Care since 2008. Rotterdam’s Erasmus Medical Center said it had bought knees and shoulders.

De Jonge said he would research how widespread the practice is in the Netherlands, review customs regulations regarding the shipments of human body parts and report back to parliament.

(Reporting by Anthony Deutsch, editing by Ed Osmond)

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