Stealing Human Skin? Ewwww!
June 4, 2014

Stealing Human Skin? Ewwww!

In Mary Shelley’s famous novel Frankenstein, Dr. Frankenstein gathers old body parts from the newly dead and assembles them into his Creature. He had to get everything, including skin. Every time I read the book, I can only imagine how the Creature’s patchwork skin must have looked.

In a real-life Frankenstein moment, the Associated Press explains how one man has been charged with theft, receiving stolen property, and tampering with records, all of which deal with missing human skin. Gary Dudek was a medical company sales representative for a regenerative medicine firm, managing accounts for the bioscience department of Mercy Philadelphia Hospital. One of his primary responsibilities was to order skin grafts for the hospital. He was allowed to do this whenever he wanted, and it turns out that even though the hospital only needed a few grafts at a time, Dudek order more than 200 in an eight-month period.

Each graft was valued at $1,700 apiece, which amounts to a total of about $350,000.

Though he has not been found guilty just yet, the evidence seems to show the likelihood of his guilt. The authorities do not know what his motive could have been or even what happened to the grafts, but they do know that he ordered them, yet the grafts are not accounted for. The motive seems pretty obvious: money.

Even if one considers the motive of money, this is a rather grotesque way to go about stealing riches. I mean, really, who thinks that selling human skin on the black market is a good idea? Anytime I hear about body parts being sold illegally all I can think is ewwwww! It just seems so, well, icky. I do not care how much money can made in this way; it is just downright gross to steal human body parts in whatever manner that is done and sell them. This does not even point at the serious ethical issues of such a practice. Selling stolen body parts is simply weird.

As I read this article, I could not help but think of Shelley’s classic tale of gothic woe. Sure, Dr. Frankenstein’s motive was obvious; he wanted to create a being. He wanted god-like powers. On the other hand, Dudek’s likely motive of money really is not all that different. In their unique ways, both bring notoriety. For Dr. Frankenstein, he envisioned a world where he was praised for his scientific creativity. For Dudek, the money would allow him luxuries that perhaps he could not afford before.

Now, this may all turn out for the best. Perhaps Dudek did not steal human skin and sell it elsewhere. Hopefully, it is a mistake. But if it is not, if he did, in fact, order lots of human skin and sell it to some black market, then the weirdness of this story will ring true. There is much most of us would do to make money; however, I would venture to guess that not many people would harvest or steal human body parts for that extra bit of cash.

What a weird tale this has started out to be. Who knew that Shelley’s Frankenstein would seem normal almost 200 years later?

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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