The story of Dr. Michael Mastromarino – a real-life ghoul, the mastermind behind a group who illegally harvested human bones, organs, tissue and other cadaver parts from individuals awaiting cremation and then selling the illegally obtained body parts to medical companies.
Before starting a $4.6 million enterprise that plundered tissue and bone from people who never gave a consent, Mastromarino was working as a dental surgeon. He was living a good life, had a beautiful wife, and 2 sons. Being highly regarded and respected in his field, he coauthored an outstanding book on dental implants, Smile: How Dental Implants Can Transform Your Life.
His New Jersey dental license was suspended in 2002 because of a drug addiction. Dealing with back aches, the prominent dentist was described Demerol; a popular synthetic opioid analgesic. During a surgery, he fell asleep and had to be awoken to finish the surgery. Under the influence, he damaged a patient’s seventh cranial nerve, which resulted in a permanent facial droop, and was later arrested for possession and being under the influence of a controlled substance.
Financially ruined because of lawsuits, Mastromarino had to find ways to support himself and his family and got a business license for tissue harvesting. Organ harvesting is a fairly popular procedure. Kidneys are the most commonly transplanted organs. The high demand for organs has created a market and the opportunity for criminals. His company Biomedical Tissue Services (BTS) and it’s workers engaged in highly unsafe practices: allowing cadavers to deteriorate before collecting tissue and parts, not testing for diseases such as HIV/AIDS, and even accepting cancerous and other diseased cadavers for harvesting and selling. And last, but not least, without authorized consent or against the written wishes of the families.
At least one woman developed syphilis after receiving a bone from BTS. Another man both HIV and hepatitis C.
Ironically, Mastromarino himself died after suffering from bone cancer. He was 49.