The money behind organs & tissues

A common thread throughout our Donor Dilemma series has been that survivors do not like to think about the money that follows their gift of organs and tissues. A Virginia surgeon whose son died and became a tissue donor told us he didn’t want to make any money from it — but he didn’t want anyone else making money either. This latest story, with Luis Fabregas, looks at the tissue side of donation…

Beenie and George Smith of Greensburg lost their only child, Megan, in a car accident in October 2001. They donated her body for organs and tissue recovery.

Beenie and George Smith of Greensburg lost their only child, Megan, in a car accident in October 2001. They donated her body for organs and tissue recovery.

Companies worldwide cash in on a $2 billion-a-year trade in human skin, bones and other tissues obtained for free from deceased donors and later sold, and resold, at a premium.

Compared with vital organs such as hearts, kidneys and livers, these body parts can be major moneymakers for nonprofits and businesses. About half of the sales come from the United States.

“Most people don’t realize this industry is explicitly profit-driven and it’s explicitly commercialized,” said Michele B. Goodwin, a law professor at the University of Minnesota who teaches bioethics and studies the trade of body parts.

Beenie and George Smith of Greensburg said they had no idea… To read the entire story, click here.

Here, not home, for the holidays

Spare a moment during the hectic holiday season to think of Mario Hausdoerfer. He comes from Bavaria, where they do Christmas better than almost anywhere. And yet he will be here in Pittsburgh, selling his hand-blown glass ornaments. I spent some time with him this week…


Mario Hausdoerfer of Haselbach, Germany, hangs glass ornaments from the ceiling of his Holiday Market chalet as dusk settles in Market Square Downtown. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Stephanie Strasburg

Few places do Christmas better than Germany, home of “O Tannenbaum,” wooden nutcrackers and vast holiday markets in every town square.

And, yet, Bavaria resident Mario Hausdoerfer, 41, will mark a 10th straight year an ocean away from the crackle of a Yule log in his own home fire.

That’s because the maker of hand-blown glass Christmas ornaments will be in America, where his wares are more rare and buyers are willing to pay a premium for artisan crafts.

He is among a half-dozen foreign vendors relocating to Pittsburgh for the next month to participate in the Peoples Gas Holiday Market in Market Square.


Hausdoerfer will miss spending the holidays with his children, a daughter, 20, and son, 11, to work at his “Old German Christmas” chalet selling wares from Germany through the holiday. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Stephanie Strasburg

The market, which opens at 10 a.m. Nov. 23, has grown 250 percent larger since its inaugural season last year and features fresh Christmas trees for the first time, more vendors and Santa, of course. Every vendor from last year returned.

Hausdoerfer has put a lot on the line to be here: He and his wife, who traveled to the United States with him, will miss spending the holidays with their children, a daughter, 20, and son, 11.

But if he has to be away from home, he welcomed the idea of returning to Pittsburgh.

“I like the city, and I like the people,” he says. “So, that makes it easy to come back. The city was very friendly to me.” To read the rest of the story, click here.

Also, I made a video to run with the story that shows Drew Hine making glass snowmen at his South Side factory, Vessel Studio: Click here