by Lindsay Beyerstein
How our blog got its name
Sidney Hillman was a powerful national figure during the Great Depression, a key supporter of the New Deal, and a close ally of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
When the rumor spread that President Roosevelt ordered his party leaders to “clear it with Sidney” before announcing Harry S. Truman as his 1944 running mate, conservative critics turned on the phrase, trumpeting it as proof that the president was under the thumb of “Big Labor.”
Over the years, the phrase lost its sting and became a testament to Hillman's influence.
It's hard to imagine a labor leader wielding that kind clout today, but we like the idea—and we hope Sidney would give thumbs up to our blog.
ICIJ Wins August Sidney Award for Sweeping Human Tissue Trade Investigation
A 13-journalist team led by International Consortium of Investigative Journalists Director Gerard Ryle and ICIJ reporter Kate Willson has won the August Sidney Award for "Skin and Bone," a sweeping investigation of the largely unregulated global trade in human tissues. A single healthy body can be worth $80,000-$200,000 when stripped for reusable parts like skin, bone, and heart valves. Greedy tissue harvesters sometimes steal tissue outright, ICIJ found. One prominent ex-dental surgeon was convicted of lifting tissues from over 1000 corpses at funeral homes in New York and Pennsylvania. A tissue firm in Ukraine is accused of stealing tissue from corpses, including that of a 19-year-old suicide victim.
The investigation, which lasted 8 months, and spanned 11 countries, sheds light on a lucrative but little-understood part of the biomedical industry. Unlike organs, human tissues are sold for profit. Organs and blood products are electronically traceable from donor to recipients, but tissues are not. This is a problem because tissues can spread infections. ICIJ found over a thousand cases of infections from contaminated tissue in the U.S. since 2002, 40 of them lethal. Those are just the cases we know of. U.S. and international authorities are only dimly aware of where tissue comes from, or where it goes. The investigation also found cases where greedy tissue dealers falsified paperwork to hide potentially lethal infections in donor bodies.
Recylced tissues have the power to heal; but the underregulated, for-profit marketplace threatens human rights, patient safety, and public health. The ICIJ investigation tackles this multifacted issue with great rigor and great compassion.
Click here to read my Back Story interview with team leader Gerard Ryle.