By the time a coroner's investigator was able to examine Jinde's 70-pound body, the bones from her legs and arms were gone. Also missing were large patches of skin from her back. With permission from county officials and saying they did not know of the abuse allegations, employees from OneLegacy, a Southern California human tissue procurement company, had gained access to the body, taking parts that could have provided crucial evidence. [...] "We can't be sure the bones weren't fractured," Wecht said. "This could have been a manslaughter case." [...]
Although the companies have emphasized organ transplants, in far more cases nationwide they harvested skin, bone, fat, ligaments and other tissues that are generally not used for life-threatening conditions. Those body parts fuel a booming industrial biotech market in which a half-teaspoon of ground-up human skin is priced at $434. That product is one of those used in cosmetic surgery to plump lips and posteriors, fill cellulite dimples and enhance penises. A single body can supply raw materials for products that sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. [...]
To increase the supply of harvested body parts, the companies have embedded procurement teams inside government morgues across the country. [...]
"I was inside the residence performing my investigation and the family was standing by outside," Kim Pavek, an L.A. County coroner investigator, wrote in an internal complaint about OneLegacy after a suicide in 2008. "The decedent's mother asked me why someone from my office would call her cellphone during such a distraught time.... She explained to me that someone from OneLegacy said they were a representative from the coroner's office inquiring about 'donating parts.' "
In the rush to harvest body parts, death investigations have been upended: