Investigators searching a Detroit warehouse run by a suspect who has allegedly been selling human body parts discovered four preserved human fetuses. Arthur Rathburn has been accused of defrauding customers by sending them diseased body parts, according to Reuters.
The raid of Rathburn's warehouse was made in December of 2013. The fetuses, which are thought to have been removed during the second trimester, were preserved in a liquid that also contained human brain tissue. Also found in the warehouse were rotting human heads.
The means by which Rathburn acquired the fetuses is unknown. Also unclear is what he planned on doing with the materials.
“This needs to be reviewed,” said US Representative Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee who recently chaired a controversial special US House committee on the use of fetal tissue. Blackburn, who is a fervent anti-choice activist, was visibly disgusted by evidence presented in the case.
“The actions depicted in these photos are an insult to human dignity,” said Virginia Republican US Representative Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “[If individuals] violate federal laws and traffic in body parts of unborn children for monetary gain,” they should be “held accountable.”
Rathburn worked as a body broker, a person who distributes parts of cadavers to be used in medical experimentation, education and research. Largely an unregulated business (with the exception of considerable restrictions put into place around the selling and distribution of human fetal tissue), the industry is seen as dependent on low-income individuals who donate their organs in exchange for free cremation. Blackburn is now calling for investigations into the practices of body brokers nationwide.
Reuters has launched an investigative series on the body broker industry. It discovered that it was relatively easy to purchase a plethora of human body parts and managed to obtain two human heads and a cervical spine from a company called Restore Life USA for around $900 (after shipping).
Restore Life owner James Byrd said his company has “invited [Blackburn] to tour our facility and to review the policy and procedures we have in place.”
Rathburn, meanwhile, has pleaded not guilty to the charges being brought against him. A trial has been set for January.
[Photo: Getty Images]