Bill would outlaw dealing in human remains

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Rep. Sherry Appleton

It is possible to buy and sell human body parts and bones on the Internet for profit and other purposes.

"It's become painfully obviously, for some macabre reason, that people buy and sell body parts on Craigslist," Kitsap County Coroner Greg Sandstrom told the Washington House Public Safety Committee Tuesday.

Sandstrom, also representing the Washington Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners, outlined a scenario of a person killing a neighbor. "They could boil the body down to the bones and sell it on the Internet, and it'd be perfectly OK," he said.

"The murder part wouldn't be OK," noted Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, the chair of the public safety committee.

The testimony was on a bill introduced by Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, to make it illegal to buy human remains and to display them for commercial purposes. The bill has a provision to exempt donations and purchases of human remains used to train search-and-rescue dogs. Sometimes, the dogs are trained with donated discarded hips and knee bones removed by replacement surgery.

"We hope this will allow us to continue to have access to human remains to train our dogs," said Rachel Yelk, who handles a search-and-rescue dog for Kitsap County.

The display of human remains for educational use will continue to be allowed under the bill. Its language will be tweaked to allow exhibits such as the controversial "Bodies -- The Exhibition" of 20 full-body Chinese cadavers and about 250 body parts that was displayed in Seattle in 2006 and 2009. In 2010, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed a law against hosting such displays because of questions over the consent of the people whose bodies were being shown.


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About the Authors & Contributors

John Stang

John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government and the environment. He can be reached on email at and on Twitter at @johnstang_8