Infamous Body Broker Caught With Fetal Corpses

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by David Nussman  •  •  December 27, 2017   

Newly revealed images show dead, unborn babies found in 2013 police raid

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DETROIT ( - A man who bought and sold human remains will start the new year on trial in a federal courtroom. 


Photo from 2013 police raid.

One of the unborn babies found in Rathburn's warehouse.

Arthur Rathburn, a 63-year-old man from Michigan, is scheduled to stand trial on January 3 for fraudulently selling infected body parts to medical researchers and a slew of other malpractice charges.  

Recently, news broke out that Rathburn might have also been dealing in aborted baby body parts.

On Tuesday, Reuters shared exclusive, confidential photos of fetal corpses, allegedly from Rathburn's warehouse during a 2013 law enforcement raid. The images of dead unborn babies are pixelated to be less graphic. 

Rathburn worked in the corpse donation industry. When a person passes away and the body gets donated to science, someone like Rathburn often acts as a middle-man between the grieving family and the medical researchers. 

The industry is a free-for-all in the United States; state and federal law impose almost no burdens on the largely unregulated business.

After years of monitoring and investigating, federal agents raided Rathburn's grisly warehouse in December 2013. They found thousands of human corpses and body parts in storage and gruesome tools for dismemberment. 

The federal agents also found the corpses of unborn babies who died during the second trimester at the hands of abortionists. While there are few laws regulating the use of adult cadavers, U.S. law specifically prohibits the sales of fetal remains.

However, the sale of fetal tissue is not listed among the charges leveled against Rathburn. 

On January 29, 2016, the U.S. District Court in Detroit charged Rathburn with selling infected corpses to unknowing clients and chopping up corpses without consent from next-of-kin. He also faces charges of other gruesome deeds, like shipping large quantities of human blood and tissue on airplanes, falsely labeled as mouthwash to get past security. 

At the time the charges were leveled, Rathburn was homeless, pending a divorce with his now-ex-wife. 

Rathburn will stand trial against the charges in the courtroom next week. 

Rathburn and his then-wife were charged with defrauding customers, not with selling or desecrating human remains.

An October 31 Reuters article expressed dismay at how few charges Rathburn is facing, calling it a sign that the cadaver industry must be regulated for the sake of ethics. The report pointed out that "Rathburn and his then-wife were charged with defrauding customers, not with selling or desecrating human remains." 

Investigators raided Rathburn's warehouse in 2013.

The headline of the same Reuters report called Rathburn's place of business "a warehouse of horrors." 

Rathburn's first moment of infamy came in 2007 when the book Body Brokers covered him and his profession. The book slammed him and his profession as morbid and unethical.

Inspired partly by the book, news outlet Reuters has an ongoing journalism series entitled The Body Trade: Cashing in on the Donated Dead

Following the federal raid on his place of business, Rathburn was in prison awaiting trial. On December 7 this year, a report from Detroit Free Press said that Rathburn had secretly admitted his guilt to fellow inmates who relayed the message to authorities.

A group of inmates cooperated with law enforcement in exchange for reduced sentences. They told Rathburn that to join their group everyone needed to sign a secret paper admitting guilt to their crimes. Rathburn did what they told him, and they handed over the paper to authorities. They even used ink from a broken pen to get Rathburn's thumbprint on the handwritten statement. 

His attorney claimed, "The confession wasn't voluntary. He was strong-armed into signing this." 

Before becoming a corpse donation middleman, Rathburn worked for the University of Michigan and helped procure cadavers. He was fired in 1990 after being caught selling the corpses for profit.

While the Catholic Church allows for the use of human remains in medical research, it also affirms that the human body, even dead, is a creation of God with supreme significance and must be treated with particular respect.

Even though the soul is separated from the body at death, the two will be reunited at the end of time. This doctrine is professed in both the Apostles' Creed ("the resurrection of the body") and the Nicene Creed ("the resurrection of the dead"). The bodies of those in Heaven will be in a glorified state. Flesh will not be subject to decay and will be free from hunger and other cravings. 

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