Alistair Cooke's body lay cold in the embalming room of an East Harlem funeral home, suspended in the brief limbo between death and cremation. A "cutter" soon arrived to make a collection. He sliced open Cooke's legs, sawed the bones from the hip, and took them away. The quintessentially British presenter of Masterpiece Theatre and Alistair Cooke's America—the face of genteel, urbane Albion to millions of Americans—was being carved up for parts..
Alistair Cooke's remains were only the most famous of more than a thousand bodies plundered by Michael Mastromarino, owner of Biomedical Tissue Services (BTS). He had a simple business model: Pay funeral directors for access to bodies and resell bones, heart valves, spines, and other tissues to biotech firms in need of spare parts.
The history of transplantation has been one of overcoming visceral opposition-of rejecting what the prominent bioethicist Leon Kass calls "the wisdom of repugnance."