Alesi Bill To Combat Illegal Tissue Harvesting Becomes Law

James S. Alesi

August 15, 2006

Senator Jim Alesi (R,C-Perinton) today lauded Governor George E. Pataki for signing into law legislation that will stiffen penalties for those who illegally harvest human tissue and organs. Recently, there have been a rash of high profile cases of illegal harvesting of tissues, bones and organs from deceased individuals who did not consent to donation.

"This new law sends a message that New York state will no longer tolerate illegal activities that involve deceased human bodies," said Senator Alesi. "In addition to the medical risks such behavior creates, it is beyond reprehensible to disrespect the deceased individual and their family members in such a way."

Under current law, the illegal dissection of a human being and the sale and purchase of human organs is a misdemeanor. Additionally, the unlawful removal of a deceased body or opening of a grave site is only a class E felony.

The legislation signed into law increases those penalties making the dissection of a human being and the sale and purchase of human organs a class E felony, carrying a punishment of one to four years in prison. The unlawful removal of a deceased body and opening of a grave would result in a class D felony which carries a punishment of one to seven years in prison.

"Major medical breakthroughs have resulted in miraculous treatments for burn victims, athletic injuries and victims of chronic back pain," said Senator Alesi. "However, there are those who chose to circumvent the proper medical screening process for the sake of profit and the individual who receives these illegally obtained tissues or organs faces great risk of infection, disease or even death. These people need to be stopped and this new law will do just that."

Recently, several families across New York state, including the family of a Chili man who died last year, filed suit against Biomedical Tissue Services, claiming his remains were unlawfully harvested for parts without their consent. According to the family, a local funeral home allowed Biomedical to take tissue from their loved ones’ body.

"Not only does the illegal harvesting of organs and tissue present medical complications, it is devastating to the family of the deceased from whom the parts were extracted," said Senator Alesi. "I am glad the Governor saw fit to sign this legislation protecting both deceased individuals and their families, but also potential recipients of these body parts that could cause further medical problems or even death."