Via the Guardian, Storm Theunissen discusses her experiment to find out, ultimately learning that we are worth far more dead than alive:
In Britain…there are various legal ways human body parts can be sold. I tried to see how much of the human body can lawfully be put up for sale: by trying to sell as much of my own body as I could.
I tried to sell my hair. I was quoted £50 by a hairdresser in London that specialises in harvesting human hair to make wigs for chemotherapy patients. The British pharmaceutical industry uses many bodily fluids to test new drugs, and I was hopeful for a decent sale upon learning they pay up to £1,750 for 1ml of blister fluid, £1,000 for a cup of saliva and £1,600 for a gram of earwax. The best offer I got was £30 for some blood. Another clinic would have paid me £50 for some skin – if I had psoriasis.
A decent earner turned out to be an auction website for people who buy bodily fluids for sexual purposes. Here, one can sell anything. Human urine is about £30 a pot, breast milk £5, even fingernails and faeces do their own roaring trade.
My most valuable sale item was eggs. In the UK, they only allow donors £750 compensation, which means almost no donors come forward – and many desperate prospective parents are driven overseas to buy eggs. But in the US, thousands of women sell eggs – it’s a mainstream market.
The greatest irony of all, is that my body is undoubtedly worth more dead than alive. In America, once a cadaver has been disarticulated into about 60 different tissues, the body parts are processed and made into medical products, which together are worth up to $250,000 on the open market. Some companies are listed on major stock exchanges – this is no niche market.