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Blood, Sperm, Milk: The Thriving Market in Human Body Products

In this photo taken Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012, Kelly Fischl, a lab technician at the Mothers' Milk Bank of New England in Newtonville, Mass., pours donated breast milk into another flask to prepare for pasteurization. Pathogens are removed in the process, so the milk can then be distributed to babies in need. Now a year into operation, officials at Mothers' Milk Bank of New England said it's the only facility of its sort in the region and one of only a dozen similar operations in North America. (AP)

Kelly Fischl, a lab technician at the Mothers’ Milk Bank of New England in Newtonville, Mass., pours donated breast milk into another flask to prepare for pasteurization. (AP)

Americans have a nearly insatiable demand for blood.

Every two seconds, someone in the country requires a blood transfusion. And to get one, they go straight to a blood bank.

But it’s a strange idea. A blood bank. Or a sperm bank. Or a breast milk bank. What kind of bank relies on donations? That’s the idea that got Kara Swanson interested in the idea, the history and the theory behind banking our precious bodily fluids. She says our current system of banking body parts isn’t just counter-intuitive — it’s costing lives.

WBUR’s Sacha Pfeiffer speaks with Swanson about the thriving market in human body products, and the complicated legal and medical questions surrounding it.

Guest

Kara Swanson, author of Banking on the Body: The Market in Blood, Milk, and Sperm in Modern America. She tweets at @KaraWSwanson.

More

The Boston Globe: The Trouble With Organ Banking

  • “The enormous success of volunteer blood banking has shaped the way we now think about body products in general, writes Northeastern University law professor Kara Swanson.”

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