Tuesday, March 18, 2008

BBC's "Body Snatching Crime Boss" is U.S. Healthcare CEO

President Bush frequently cites private healthcare as the answer to America's glaring health care problems. A CEO of one private firm. Biomedical Tissue Services, plead guilty to illegally harvesting and selling human body parts. He garnered millions from the scheme according to the BBC.

The 44-year-old former oral surgeon pleaded guilty to one count of enterprise corruption, nine counts of reckless endangerment in the first degree, and four counts of body stealing.

He said he forged documents, did not obtain consent from relatives, did not check for infectious diseases and forged documents to cover up his operations. He will be sentenced to between 18 and 54 years in jail in May.

Mastromarino reached the plea deal earlier this year, although it nearly fell apart after prosecutors discovered the extent of his crimes.

The extent of his crimes? Dr. Mastromarino was convicted in February 2006 of illegally harvesting and selling tissue which resulted in the implantation of defective, diseased tissue into patients. But BTS was a subcontractor for larger tissue firms.

This echoes Baxter Healthcare's tainted heparin. The blood thinner problem has been traced to Chinese consolidators who bundle key heparin ingredients supplied by numerous "workshops". The Chinese have blocked access to the small labs where the problem may originate. Neither the FDA or Baxter Healthcare has gotten access to Chinese heparin supplying workshops.

But someone caught on to Dr. Mastromarino's own dirty tissue workshop, which ran for years right here in the United States. Some 13,000 patients were affected by the recall of BTS products. The illegal behavior began in 2001 and involved numerous health care professionals, including nurses, until 2005, when the illegal behavior was discovered.

How does such a thing happen? Do larger companies take anything as long as the price is cheap? How could tissue and drug companies not know defective products were being shipped by suppliers? When their suppliers substituted lesser ingredients (like cancerous bones from Alistair Cooke), why didn't the private healthcare firm know? It's a question worth pondering as the private sector is bandied about as the answer to all our problems. Next time you see the media refer to a "crime boss", check to see if it's an American CEO. The BBC can't be alone in making such a characterization.