Hawaii has long been a base for U.S. military operations in the Pacific. The U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor and the Army Air Corps Hickman Field became famous as the location where the World War Two began in the Pacific for the U.S., and Hawaii is home to tens of thousands of active duty and retired servicemembers. And that means the Veterans Administration’s Spark M. Matsunaga VA Medical Center provides medical care for a significant number of residents of the islands of Hawaii.
Many of those servicemembers suffer injuries that require a variety of surgical procedures that necessitate the use of cadaver body parts.
The body parts and implants are used situations as varied as skin grafts for reconstruction of breasts after a mastectomy and for burn victims, to bone grafts used in spinal corrections and hip replacements.
Knee surgery may require use of meniscus and Achilles tendons, eyes may receive cornea transplants and teeth may be used for bone repair. A gruesome as this sounds, it is routine and necessary, but severe problems can result when the transplanted body parts are contaminated.
Two major suppliers of human tissue to the VA had been found to have “safety deficiencies,” including “contaminated products and processing facilities” and distribution of tissue from tainted donors.” The supplies claim no harm has resulted from these deficiencies.
What is most worrying is the lack of oversight. According to a researcher cited by the Bloomberg story, the tissue donation from human cadavers is “almost completely unregulated.”
While using contaminated body parts and tissue would be obvious medical malpractice, and patients have died in some cases, the frightening aspect of this story how little is known about the materials and it may be only after complication or death that the problem may be discovered.
Our veterans deserve better, and we hope the VA is able to put an effective monitoring system in place. The entire body part industry appears to be lacking adequate regulation. Your realtor should not be subject to greater regulatory oversight than your knee replacement.
Source: Bloomburg.com “U.S. Vets Exposed to Cadaver Parts From Contaminated Lab,” Kathleen Miller, January 24, 2014