Buying and selling human remains is not illegal in the UK, provided that
Live Science found 50 sellers in England andWales who used social media to sell human remains between 2020 and 2022. While some vendors only offered the skull or bone in private groups, many offered human remains using public communities.
Screenshot of Live Science
Usually sellers and collectors postimages of "cleaned for research" human bones. However, Live Science also found mutilated and defiled remains. For example, wallets made of human and pig skin.
One of the sellers on Instagram postedan image of a human skull with the inscription "kill me" carved into the side. There were also coffin nails in the skull, and he turned it into a lamp. For example, a user named Joseph Plaskitt posted a picture of a painted skull on social media. He told Live Science that he was a "training guide" from Europe.
Screenshot of Live Science
Also, Live Science found more lamps withhuman skulls shared by other sellers. There were also steampunk skulls filled with cogs, gears and other mechanical parts, as well as skulls painted to look like vampires.
This is not the first story to highlightthe role of social networks in the trade in human remains. For example, Wired reported in 2019 that there was a boom in human skull trading on social media.
Most human skulls and bonesdocumented by Live Science during this study turned out to be medical or anatomical specimens that could be decades or centuries old. Human remains are usually sold with little to no backstory and can circulate in the trade for many decades, changing hands several times, so it's hard to know exactly where they came from.
However, two forensic experts reportedpublication that some of the human skulls found during the investigation appear to have belonged to people who died violent deaths. Judging by the photographs, two of the skulls for sale had gunshot wounds.
Buying and selling human remains inlargely ignored by existing UK law. Anyone can own, buy and sell human body parts, as long as they don't illegally acquire the remains and don't use them for transplants. But the remains themselves are technically not property, so legally they cannot be owned.
Representatives of the Human Tissue Administration, whichpart of the UK Department of Health and Welfare, states that all human remains "should be treated with respect and dignity". But desecration or mutilation of a corpse is not against the law in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; Scotland is an exception.
Later representatives of the Human Tissue Administrationsent an official statement to Live Science: "The actions of any person carrying out activities that fall within the purview of the HTA must be guided by the four principles of consent, dignity, quality, honesty and openness."
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