Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Man arrested for stealing brains in Indiana

This is a story sent to me from my fantastic friend Jean. The title is pretty damn catchy.

The article was short to begin with but here are the relevant parts:
Police in Indiana catch a man who was selling stolen brains.
More than 60 jars of brain were stolen from a warehouse at the Indiana Medical History Museum in October.
Some specimens are over 100 years old.
Those jars wound up being listed on eBay.
The buyer got suspicious and alerted the museum.
That led undercover officers to set up a buy with the seller at a local Dairy Queen.
The stolen jars of preserved human brain tissue are valued at about $4,800.

I’m thinking there should be a little more to the story.  Why is the Dairy Queen mentioned? Would the outcome be different at McDonald’s?

I'm thinking the theft of brains is not a common occurrence. Did he have any idea what they were worth and if so, how did he know?

Was the theft intended for personal use to supplement some cognitive deficits?

What I really want to know is how the hell does anyone walk out of a museum with 60 jars of floating cerebral cortexes?
A few more bits and pieces about the body business.

You probably think of donated bodies and first year medical students. True, but in addition to academic dissection, bodies are sometimes sent to the Body Farm.  The Body Farm places corpses in different settings and records how they decompose. The thinking is, if police find a body, they can compare it to the records of decomposition and identify additional aspects of a case.

Guess who else wants your body. . .

The military.  Yep they do.  They want to test aspects of equipment for safety.  Corpses are shot or placed in Army vehicles that are bombed or dropped with parachutes.

Then, because I am a crazy lady, I had to look up some of the legal aspects of selling human body tissue. (That’s something everyone wants to know about right?)

It turns out it is legal, as long as it isn’t for organ or tissue for transplant or the result of robbing a Native American burial site and if it came from a suspicious death, well you probably aren’t going to be able to keep it.  Who knew?  
Real Victoria era articulated human skeleton.  On sale at ebay.  Current bid $250     
However both ebay and etsy (that’s right, etsy,  the crafting site) do not allow the sale of human pieces or human parts with the exception of teeth, hair and sometimes bones. (Clearly the brain sale didn’t trigger the ebay police like it should have.)  

I guess if you’ve stolen brains, you aren’t too particular about meeting ebay standards and that leads to the last question.  Can body parts be sent in the mail? Well the regulations are about ten pages long on what can and can’t be sent and how it has to be packed and labeled. So if you are going to mail a spleen in a specimen jar you might want to check it out.

Specimen for Bacteriological Examination. This package to be treated as a letter mail. Diphtheria
However, in the past it wasn't just body parts that could be sent in the mail. Its kind of amazing that the human species hasn't accidently destroyed itself.

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