Our bodies belong to us. It’s only natural, then, to wonder what becomes of our body parts when they’re surgically removed. Are we permitted to take home the severed pieces of ourselves as souvenirs? If so, how? If not, what happens to these parts? How are our organs or appendages disposed of once they’re separated from our bodies? Doctors offer answers from their side of the surgical table.



Houtan Chaboki, MD

Board certified facial plastic surgeon, George Washington Medical Faculty associate

By far, most plastic surgery patients do not want their tissue and are happy to be rid of it. Some patients, such a mole or tumor excision, may want to just see the specimen before it's sent to the laboratory for testing. No one has wanted to take tissue home or save it. The only time I can remember that a patient took something from the operation is a woman who was undergoing rhinoplasty and wanted to keep her nose ring. I removed the ring, cleaned it, and placed in sterile container. Next, I performed the rhinoplasty and gave her the ring back. Lastly, patients who have had implants (cheek, chin, nose, etc) have also not wanted the implants back. Plastic surgery patients really want an effect from surgery (tissue removal or augmentation) and not the material itself.

Medical waste, which includes tissue and blood, is discarded in specific red biohazard containers which are collected and disposed according to state and federal regulations. A variety of companies are contracted who can discard medical waste for physicians and hospitals.

Parts for Sale

1999: a man auctioned off his kidney on Ebay. The bidding reached $5 million before the auction was shut down due to anti-organ trafficking laws.

2006: William Shatner sold his kidney stones for $75,000 and gave the money to charity.

2014: A Dutch man named Leo Bonten turned his amputated leg into a lamp. He attempted to sell the lamp for 100,000 euros on Ebay before the auction was shut down.


Allen Kamrava, M.D. M.B.A.

Board certified colon and rectal surgeon, teaching staff in the department of surgery, division of colon and rectal surgery at Cedars Sinai Medical Center

In general, as we remove organs we pass it to the scrub nurse. The scrub nurse will then, with the aid of the circulating nurse, place the organ in a transport container to be taken to the pathology lab where it will be analyzed processed.

Patient often times ask if they can have the organ, and my response is that I as a matter of policy always send everything through the pathology lab.

Even bullets in trauma situations, the cops will always ask us to give them the bullet, but hospital policy, at least where I did trauma surgery, was that it had to go through the pathology lab first and then the police could retrieve it there. It was explained to be part of the order of evidence. That if we simply handed the police the bullet, an attorney could easily question the chain of custody of the evidence. The pathology lab is supposed to act as not only a diagnostic lab, but also an official recorder.

So, for instance, when we take implants out of patients, the pathology lab acts as proof that it was removed (e.g. chemotherapy port, breast implant, etc.). They provide a report verifying that the object removed by the
surgeon is indeed what the surgeon is claiming it is.

In some cases, surgeons will inspect the organ in the operating room before sending to pathology. So for instance, if I remove a colon for colon cancer, I will have it opened in the operating room to verify that the
cancer is indeed in the organ (we removed the correct segment) and that the margins are appropriate and that there isn't anything else we should be aware of. From there, the pathologist will take it.

Black market kidneys

Cost to buyer / profit to seller


$10,000 / $3,000-$5,000


$20,000 / $2,000


$47,500 / $15,000


$125,000-$135,000 / $10,000


$100,000-$250,000 / $2,500-$3,000


Wyatt Knox

Special Projects Director at Team O'Neil Rally School

Some patients do ask about the disposition of their organs, I would say about 20% or so. In gynecology, we are removing organs that are diseased; therefore, everything that is removed from the body undergoes evaluation by a pathologist to establish a final diagnosis and to rule out the possibility of occult disease (most importantly, cancer). Representative microscopic slides of the tissues are prepared, and the remainder of the tissue is incinerated.

On the obstetrical side, some patients do request to take the placenta home after delivery. It is placed in standard biohazard packaging and given to the patient. I have one patient every 2-3 years request this; some doctors may see it more often.  Standard protocol for disposal of placentas is incineration.

On a different note, I do remember my grandmother bringing her gallstones home from the hospital in a bottle sometime in the early 70s.  Those would not be sent for pathology, so I guess her doc just gave them to her.

Organ donation statistics:

123,000 people need lifesaving organ transplants now.

nt.In 2013, there were 14,257 Organ Donors resulting in 28,953 organ transplants.

98% of all adults have heard about organ donation.

90% of Americans say they support donation, but only 30% know the essential steps to take to be a donor.

ILLUSTRATION:  Nikita Treptsov
Additional sources: Time, CNN, Havocscope, Donate Life