(what might happen when you donate your body to science)
The two picnic coolers, wrapped with duct tape, split open as the ground crew at the Detroit Metro airport tossed them onto a palette in a climate-controlled warehouse. Out came pouring blood.
Inside were eight human heads.
And it was ostensibly legal. The heads came from International Biological, Inc., which is one of those places one might choose to donate themselves to after death. About 20,000 human bodies are donated in the US annually. Selling a body is illegal, of course, but International Biological, Inc., manages to make quite the profit through allocation fees.
It charges for packaging (though how heads inside duct tape camping coolers is advanced packaging is not completely explained), delivery, “matching,” and “placing.” At the end of the day, a human body’s various parts and pieces can yield a company like International Biological $100,000.
The owner of International Biological, Inc., Arthur Rathburn , did get in trouble for the eight heads, however. The packages were marked to contain five heads, a torso, and a complete human body, so mislabeling was one gripe. Secondly, the remains tested positive for hepatitis B, though Rathburn marked them as non-infectious. The names and death certificates weren’t included with the heads either. The red liquid in the cooler, which tested positive thrice for blood, was marked as a preservative. So for fudging some bureaucratic labeling (and dealing in infected bodies), Rathburn was in hot water. What wasn’t illegal is that the families of those bodies remained blissfully unaware until the story came to light, under the misapprehension that bodies donated to science are operated on by medical students, cremated, and returned to their families.
By time the FBI alerted Linda Hayes that her husband’s head was of those found in the Detroit airport, she had already scattered the ashes International Biological, Inc., had returned to her.