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Proposed Federal Legislation Would Impose Regulations To Prevent Black-Market Brokering Of Donated Body Parts

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A stomach-turning case has affected hundreds of Illinois families, who chose to donate their loved ones' bodies to help others – but instead, parts and pieces of them were sold to the highest bidder.

For years, CBS 2 tracked the fallout of the now-shuttered Biological Resource Center of Illinois. On Tuesday, a federal effort was launched, starting in Illinois, to regulate the black-market body-brokering industry.

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Illinois) talked about it only with CBS 2's Tara Molina, who has covered this closely.

The federal bill just introduced aims to regulate what we've exposed is an unregulated industry, with players in Illinois taking advantage that. We found that oftentimes, they are taking advantage of low-income families too.

"He thought he was doing something genuinely good - and to go and find out that no, that's not really what happened?" Tracy Smolka, whose father donated his own body, said back on May 3, 2019. "He would be disgusted."

Smolka is among those whose loved-ones' bodies were donated for what they thought was the greater good…medical research to help others. Instead, as Smolka explained it, her father's body was "butchered and sold for profit."

"His knees were taken with a value of $350 each, and shoulders with a value of $700," Smolka said.

They are the victims of what the feds have called felony schemes to defraud, with investigations spanning several states.

The father and son behind The Biological Resource Center of Illinois, Donald Greene Sr. and Jr., are still facing federal charges for the illegal sale of diseased body parts - years after the FBI raided their facility.

"It's just despicable," said Charles Childs Jr. of A.A. Rayner & Sons Funeral Services.

Childs' family has worked in the funeral industry here in Chicago for more than a century. He is the former president of the National Funeral Directors Association, and he said the practice casts a bad light on the industry.

"I hope that there's some kind of regulatory body that can oversee this," Childs said. "I'm not sure who's going to be the one."

Enter the Consensual Donation and Research Integrity Act of 2021, just introduced by Rep. Rush.

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"Credibility and accountability," Rush said. "They must be regulated – at the state level and also at the federal level."

The bill would regulate the unregulated industry.

"We've got to plug that hole up," Rush said.

It would do so by requiring brokers and buyers to register with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, maintain complete records, ensure proper labeling and packaging of remains, and dispose of them by returning them to the donor's relative or representative.

Rep. Rush said his goal is to make sure another family doesn't suffer the way hundreds in Illinois already have.

"We would not be where we are today at the state level and also at the federal level without your excellent work, investigative work," Rush said.

RELATED: Father And Son Charged With Selling Diseased Body Parts In Alleged Brokering Scheme | Donald Greene, Charged In Alleged Black Market Body Part Brokering Scheme, Still Licensed Funeral Director In Illinois | Father Duped In Alleged Black Market Body Part Brokering Scheme Wants Daughter's Body Back | Woman Wants Legislation After Her Father's Body Parts Were Sold In An Alleged Black Market Body Part Brokering Scheme | Secretary Of State Jesse White Plans Legislation To Regulate Body Donation After Alleged Black Market Body Part Scheme | Some Families Who Say They Are Victims Of A Body Part Brokering Scheme Are Angry They May Not Be Part Of Case | Secretary Of State Jesse White Says Legislation To Be Introduced Would Prevent Future Sale Of Body Parts | Diseased Body Part Brokering Scheme Trial Put On Hold When Judge Doesn't Approve Plea Deal

This bill was just introduced Tuesday. You can read it in full below.

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Meanwhile, there is also work happening at the state level as a direct result of your reporting on these issues. The pandemic delayed some of that work on the Illinois state level, but that work is moving forward - in part, to create a task force here that will oversee what's happening statewide.

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