Skin and Bone

Published — September 6, 2012 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

IMPACT: Pentagon, Congress probe tissue contracts

When skin is meshed, it doubles its size and surface area as a surgical covering. The holes also help with evacuation of liquids during healing. Mar Cabra/ICIJ


The Pentagon has announced a new program to better oversee human cadaver tissue used in Defense Department hospitals around the world and is investigating allegations that some tissue-based medical implants provided to service members may have been obtained improperly, military officials said Wednesday.

At the same time, Congressional investigators say they are looking into government contracts between the Department of Veterans Affairs and RTI Biologics, a Florida-based manufacturer of medical implants made from human bones, skin, ligaments and other tissues. RTI is one of the world’s largest players in the billion-dollar human tissue industry — processing a quarter of all material recovered from cadavers in the United States.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reported in July that RTI had obtained tissues from suppliers in the U.S. and the Ukraine that have been investigated for allegedly forging documents or bullying families into signing donor consent forms.

“We are currently in the process of determining if our Military Treatment Facilities — administered by the Army, Navy, and Air Force respectively — have conducted business with RTI or its subsidiary, Tutogen,” Defense spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said in a prepared statement.

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