TISSUE BANKS: Feds Launch Industry Investigation
Following reports of abuses in the tissue bank industry, HHS announced it is launching an investigation into the collection and distribution of human tissue, the Chicago Tribune reports. Investigators will concentrate on protections for tissue donors to ensure that companies reveal "the ultimate use of the tissue," an HHS spokesperson said. Following the death of a loved one, family members may receive solicitations from tissue and organ banks to donate bones, tendons, corneas, skin and other body parts. But companies often neglect to inform donors of the profitable nature of the business (Dorning, 6/9). While the companies maintain not-for-profit status, the tissue bank industry earns $500 million annually (Knight-Ridder/Akron Beacon Journal, 6/9). Companies can skirt the National Organ Transplant Act, which prohibits the buying and selling of organs and tissue, but allows tissue banks to charge "reasonable" costs associated with their business. HHS spokesperson Melissa Skolfield said that the investigation would explore the possibility of federal accreditation and registry for the nation's 300 operating tissue banks. In addition to issues of informed consent and profit disclosure, Skolfield said that the investigation will ask the following questions: "If [the accreditation process] were properly strengthened, could it be a national standard? Or are there state laws that need to be strengthened or federal regulations that need to be strengthened?" HHS Secretary Donna Shalala told lawmakers that she would deliver a report to them before the August congressional recess and will continue with a more detailed investigation. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who met with Shalala on the issue, said, "This is clearly an issue whose time has come. She made it clear to us she was going to respond with a very thorough investigation (Chicago Tribune, 6/9).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.