Created By: Westrim on July 2, 2012 Last Edited By: Westrim on August 4, 2014
Troped

Killing For A Tissue Sample

Trying to kill someone for their genetic material, when it can be harvested harmlessly.

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Page Type:
Trope
"Unfortunately, my patented cloning process has one nasty side effect: I have to cut you in half!"
Hamsterveil, Stitch! The Movie

If a character has special properties, other people usually want to know how to get or understand them, for reasons ranging from For Science! to world domination. This means that they need to figure out how the special properties are created, and how they can be replicated. That means they need a sample of the blood or genetic material of the subject, which is reasonable enough. Then they kick it into Dramatic Storytelling and decide they don't just need a sample, they need the body. The dead body.

There are multiple reasons why this is a Bad Plan. Death is usually permanent, so if there was a screw up and they need the subject alive, too bad; corpses aren't very talkative. It tends to give focus to the subject or their friends and make them fight you much harder than if you just wanted some blood samples. It's terrible PR, since the general public frowns on experimentation via murder. It's much better if the subject is alive so they can avoid all of those pitfalls and generate more genetic material or blood. However, captivity isn't as dramatic as impending death.

Related tropes include Mainlining the Monster and Captured Super-Entity.


Examples

Anime and Manga
  • Casshern of Casshern Sins is immune to the Ruin that affects every other robot, and consequently there is a rumor that eating him will grant eternal life. This is hinted at being true since Friender, a robot dog that took a chunk out of him, shows no sign of Ruin years later, but no one asks to slice off a chunk of his regenerating body, they just charge into battle and die.

Film - Animated
  • In Stitch! The Movie, Hamsterveil tries to make a clone army of Stitch, which would involve killing the original.

Film - Live-Action
  • Averted in Pirates of the Caribbean initially, then played straight.
    • The pirates avert the trope with Elizabeth. They let her believe she'll be sacrificed to free them, but all they need is a few drops of her blood on the gold.
    Barbossa: Waste not.
    • When it becomes William's turn, they are by this point rather frustrated and decide to spill it all just to make sure. And provide greater dramatic emphasis for the effort to rescue him, of course.
  • MNU in District 9 does some tests on Wikus to confirm his ability to use alien weaponry, then decides to kill him to examine his genetic material.
  • In Man of Steel, the Kryptonian survivors need an object called the Codex, which contains the DNA plans for reconstructing their species. One of General Zod's scientists discovers that the Codex has been fused with Superman. All it'd take to retrieve it is a cellular extraction, but Zod has vengeance on the mind, and asks if Superman has to be alive for them to retrieve it. Turns out he doesn't.
  • Inverted and invoked by Nyah in Mission: Impossible 2, who injects herself with the last sample of a Synthetic Plague that the villains need for a Poison-and-Cure Gambit to stop them from killing her. All of the parties involved simply assume that it would be impossible to retrieve a sample of the virus from a freshly-dead corpse.
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past: After studying Mystique's DNA, Bolivar Trask decides he wants more samples in order to create new kind of technology with Adaptive Abilities. Among the samples he needs are brain tissue, spinal fluid, and bone marrow, implying that, if he got the chance, he would pretty much pick Mystique apart piece by piece.

Live-Action TV
  • Addressed in a Metal Hurlant Chronicles episode, where the subject willingly gives his blood and life to save his dying princess, specifying that all the blood is needed. However, it's still played straight since no effort is made to capture the blood and we last see her lapping at his cut throat with a large pool of blood on the ground.
  • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Who Mourns for Morn?" a group of thieves show up on the station to get at Morn's horde of Gold Pressed Latinum from a heist they had all participated in years earlier, and which Morn has willed to Quark. The delivery is coded to Quark's thumbprint, and one of the thieves threatens to kill Quark and take his thumb if he doesn't cooperate. One of the other thieves points out that it'd be more than a little suspicious if they showed up with a bloody severed thumb to get at the delivery.
  • In an episode of M*A*S*H Margaret thinks she might be pregnant. She asks Hawkeye to do a Rabbit Test on her (where they inject a rabbit with a urine sample from a possible mother and then dissect the rabbit to examine its ovaries). The only female rabbit available is Radar's, who refuses to allow them to kill his pet, but he will let them do the test if they promise that the rabbit won't be killed. So the doctors do an ovarectomy on Radar's rabbit.
  • There's an episode of Diagnosis: Murder in which the killer turns out to be a doctor who specializes in studying genetics, and his intended victim has a unique trait in her genes that he's convinced will further his research.
  • Not quite killing but still excessive, in the Farscape episode "DNA Mad Scientist" the scientist wants a very large sample of Pilot's DNA, one of his arms (it regenerates). Of course earlier he'd claimed that he needed to take genetic samples from the crew's eyes in order to determine the locations of their homeworlds, and when Crichton asked why he couldn't just use some skin he stated that would be the case if he working at the level of mere DNA.
  • Sliders had Colonel Rickman who killed for brain tissue to combat a brain fungus he picked up in one of his alternate universes' wars.

Literature
  • In Halo: First Strike, Sergeant Johnson turns out to be immune to the Flood. Halsey gives John the choice of giving the Office of the Naval Intelligence one of two data crystals. One directly mentions Johnson by name and and outlines how his nerve condition makes him immune, the other has the same information but omits his name and DNA. She warns John that giving ONI the former will likely cause them to dissect Johnson in hopes of figuring out the cure. John struggles with which is better to give, and chooses the latter.
  • There was an Animorphs book with a race of inbred mutant fish people who wanted to kill the Animorphs with an elaborate machine to get their DNA to increase their gene pool. They aren't interested when it's pointed out that there's easier ways to get a DNA sample.

Video Games

Western Animation
  • In a Treehouse of Horror episode of The Simpsons it's discovered that Bart is immune to the Zombie Plague, so a bunch of other (non-zombie) people plan to eat him in order to become immune. Eventually he just swims in the soup they all eat.
  • Futurama
    • "A Clone of My Own". To sneak into the Near-Death Star to rescue the Professor, the crew need a DNA sample from him. Fortunately, they can get one from the Professor's clone, Cubert. Rather than one cell, however, Bender takes out a liter's worth of Cubert's blood, telling the guard to "keep the change".
    • "Cold Warriors". To stave off a cold epidemic (the common cold was eradicated centuries ago and people no longer had immunity), the Professor needs to get a sample from Fry... by grinding him up into a slurry. Fortunately, Fry remembers that he had a cold sample sent to space when he was a kid, and they decide to spare Fry and get that sample instead, much to the Professor's disappointment.
    • "Rebirth". The Professor uses stem cells to revive the crew. When Fry points out how controversial stem cells were in his time, Farnsworth explains that he's using adult stem cells... harvested from adults whom he had killed for their stem cells.
    • In "The Sting", Professor Farnsworth prepares to test Leela's brain to see if she's sane... by putting her in a guillotine.
    Leela: Professor! Can't you examine my brain without removing it?
    Farnsworth: Yes, easily.

Web Comic Accidental Centaurs went on hiatus with a cliffhanger about whether Lenny is going to kill Stavvros to get a DNA sample.

Community Feedback Replies: 53
  • July 2, 2012
    Astaroth
    There's an episode of Diagnosis Murder in which the killer turns out to be a doctor who specialises in studying genetics, and his intended victim has a unique trait in her genes that he's convinced will further his research.
  • July 2, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In a Treehouse Of Horror episode of The Simpsons it's discovered that Bart is immune to the Zombie Plague, so a bunch of other (non-zombie) people plan to eat him in order to become immune. Eventually he just swims in the soup they all eat.
  • July 3, 2012
    Arivne

  • February 4, 2013
    Westrim
    Reviving this. Clearly needs some formatting work and the suggestions need to be added.
  • February 4, 2013
    McKathlin
    I find the current laconic unclear; I can't tell it from No Kill Like Overkill. How about this: Trying to kill someone for their genetic material, when it can be harvested harmlessly.
  • February 5, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In an episode of MASH Margaret thinks she might be pregnant. She asks Hawkeye to do a Rabbit Test on her (where they inject a rabbit with a urine sample from a possible mother and then dissect the rabbit to examine its ovaries). The only female rabbit available is Radar's, who refuses to allow them to kill his pet, but he will let them do the test if they promise that the rabbit won't be killed. So the doctors do an ovarectomy on Radar's rabbit.
  • February 5, 2013
    TonyG
    • Futurama:
      • "A Clone of My Own": To sneak into the Near-Death Star to rescue the Professor, the crew need a DNA sample from him. Fortunately, they can get one from the Professor's clone, Cubert. Rather than one cell, however, Bender takes out a liter's worth of Cubert's blood, telling the guard to "keep the change".
      • "Cold Warriors": To stave off a cold epidemic (the common cold was erradicated centuries ago and people no longer had immunity), the Professor needs to get a sample from Fry... by grinding him up into a slurry. Fortunately, Fry remembers that he had a cold sample sent to space when he was a kid, and they decide to spare Fry and get that sample instead, much to the Professor's dissapointment.
  • February 6, 2013
    Arivne

  • March 16, 2013
    TonyG
    ^^"Rebirth": The Professor uses stem cells to revive the crew. When Fry points out how controversial stem cells were in his time, Farnsworth explains that he's using adult stem cells... harvested from adults whom he had killed for their stem cells.
  • March 16, 2013
    Tuckerscreator
    • In Halo First Strike, Sergeant Johnson turns out to be immune to the Flood. Halsey gives John the choice of giving the Office of the Naval Intelligence one of two data crystals. One directly mentions Johnson by name and and outlines how his nerve condition makes him immune, the other has the same information but omits his name and DNA. She warns John that giving ONI the former will likely cause them to dissect Johnson in hopes of figuring out the cure. John struggles with which is better to give, and chooses the latter.
  • March 16, 2013
    RoseBride
    In Naruto memebers of clans with Bloodlines are often victim of this trope, possibly a subversion since they do NOT kill them ...at least not until the get said ability.
  • March 16, 2013
    Arivne
    Sometimes occurs in a They Would Cut You Up situation. Can involve Playing With Syringes.
  • May 13, 2014
    xanderiskander
    For the Pirates of the Caribbean example; You can't avert a trope and then play it straight, because if it's played straight later it was never averted in the first place. It sounds like it would actually be a Double Subversion, but some would say it's a better idea to avoid using those terms anyway.
  • May 13, 2014
    DAN004
    There used to be a ykttw called Lumberjacking For Toothpicks that may be related to this one.
  • May 14, 2014
    Arivne
  • May 14, 2014
    Paradisesnake
    Namespaced and italicized the examples + sorted examples by media.
  • May 14, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    ^^^^ You can avert and then play straight, but you are correct that Pirates does not. It is also two examples, not one.

    • In Universe, the pirates subvert the trope with Elizabeth, setting it up to make her believe she'll be sacrificed to free them. Savvy viewers could notice that the pirates clearly weren't sacrificed to break the curse themselves, so it wouldn't be necessary to kill her.
    • When it becomes William's turn, two of the pirates try to reassure him that they only need a drop of blood to break the curse. Another pirate reminds them that Will only has half of his father's genes, so they'll "spill it all" just to make sure.
  • May 14, 2014
    dalek955
    • In Lilo And Stitch: The Movie, Hamsterveil tries to make a clone army of Stitch, which would involve killing the original.

    Possible page quote:
    Hamsterveil: Unfortunately, my patented cloning process has one nasty side effect: I have to cut you in half!!

  • May 15, 2014
    Paradisesnake
    ^ The name of the movie is Stitch The Movie.

    Fixed the example title and moved it to the Film - Animated section where it belongs.
  • May 15, 2014
    bitemytail
    ^^ I'd prefer the quote being the Futurama episode "A Clone of My Own" mentioned above.

    Someone want to fire up Netflix?
  • May 15, 2014
    Boston
    Is this similar to stealing body organs for profit? Cutting off someone's hand / cutting out their eyeball to bypass a security scan? "Stealing" someone's genetic identity by using their blood or urine for tests?
  • May 15, 2014
    MercenX
    Is it viable to merge this with Trees Into Toothpicks?
  • May 16, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ I'd rather make one called Ridiculously Wasteful Production.
  • May 16, 2014
    Earnest
    Is it bad that I want to call this "Lethal Harvest"?

    I feel like a bad 80's B movie writer just typing that. :P ;D

    A more serious title suggestion (though I think the current is fine) could be Unnecessarily Lethal Biopsy.
  • May 16, 2014
    BaffleBlend
  • May 16, 2014
    hbi2k
    Film
  • May 16, 2014
    Tuckerscreator
    • In Man Of Steel, the Kryptonian survivors need an object called the Codex, which contains the DNA plans for reconstructing their species. One of General Zod's scientist discovers that the Codex has been fused with Superman. All it'd take to retrieve is a cellular extraction, but Zod has vengeance on the mind, and asks if Superman has to be alive for them to retrieve it. Turns out he doesn't.
  • May 16, 2014
    randomsurfer
    In the Star Trek Deep Space Nine episode "Who Mourns for Morn?" a group of thieves show up on the station to get at Morn's horde of Gold Pressed Latinum from a heist they had all participated in years earlier, and which Morn has willed to Quark. The delivery is coded to Quark's thumbprint, and one of the thieves threatens to kill Quark and take his thumb if he doesn't cooperate. One of the other thieves points out that it'd be more than a little suspicious if they showed up with a bloody severed thumb to get at the delivery.
  • May 17, 2014
    Westrim
    Dan, Trees Into Toothpicks has come up with a surprising number of examples of exactly that event happening, and trees are way different than human bodies, morally speaking. If both were subtropes of a Ridiculously Wasteful Production trope or something similar, then that might work better.

    Boston, All of those are related, but they aren't the trope because what is needed matches what is taken- an eye for an eye, so to speak. When blood is needed and a life is taken there's a drastic mismatch.

    Thanks Earnest. I feel like I've read that book. And thanks all for the examples.
  • May 17, 2014
    newguy1985
    Live Action Television
    • '"Sliders'' had Colonel Rickman who killed for brain tissue to combat a brain fungus he picked up in one of his alternate universes' wars.
  • May 19, 2014
    zarpaulus
    ^ Justified as he was after transplants not DNA.

    • Not quite killing but still excessive, in the Farscape episode "DNA Mad Scientist" the scientist wants a very large sample of Pilot's DNA, one of his arms (it regenerates). Of course earlier he'd claimed that he needed to take genetic samples from the crew's eyes in order to determine the locations of their homeworlds, and when Crichton asked why he couldn't just use some skin he stated that would be the case if he working at the level of mere DNA.
  • June 1, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Stem cells can be gathered from umbilical cords, but they are sometimes gathered from aborted babies instead.
  • June 1, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    ^ violates How To Write An Example: make the example specific. Also, the fetus wasn't killed for the purpose of collecting stem cells, unless there's some new abortion marketing going on.
  • June 1, 2014
    Koveras
    • Defied in Skin Game: the shapeshifter on The Caper team that Harry is also a member of needs a tissue sample of a vault clerk to replicate his appearance, and usually prefers to Kill And Replace his targets. Harry is, however, vehemently opposed to this and they agree on less lethal means to obtain the sample. The man is still killed by another villain.
  • June 1, 2014
    zarpaulus
    @Hero_Gal_2347: That is a myth. Embryonic stem cells are differentiated by the time pregnancy is usually detected, they are extracted from embryos conceived in petri dishes. And embryonic cells are much more versatile than stem cells extracted from umbilical blood, bone marrow, mammary glands, intestines, brains, the nose, or testicles.
  • June 2, 2014
    Arivne
  • June 4, 2014
    jormis29
    • Destroy All Humans : The Furons have been rendered sterile through centuries of nuclear warfare, and are dependent on cloning to reproduce. In order to avoid Clone Degeneration, they harvest Furon DNA from humans, left there from when their ancestors slept with humans while returning from the war on Mars. The only way to gather the DNA is taking peoples brain stems, often by putting them on the wrong end of the Anal Probe gun.
  • June 4, 2014
    StarSword
    Formatted page quote.
  • June 4, 2014
    Paradisesnake
    Fixed the same error in the page quote, that was present in the example itself: the movie in question is Stitch The Movie, not Lilo And Stitch.
  • June 7, 2014
    AgProv
    in h2g2, the whole business with Arthur Dent being the last survivor of Earth's computer matrix and therefore - apparently - the only being alive who knows the question to the Answer. The white mice want to extract and dissect his brain. Even though Eddie and Marvin can both read his mind remotely to harmlessly extract the Question. And even though Arthur isn't the only survivor from Earth - why does nobody consider Trillian is the other Earth survivor?
  • Western Animation
    • Courage The Cowardly Dog. In, "The Snowman Cometh," Snowman discovers a way to extract the "anti-melting gene" of a human being, and plans on obtaining it so snowmen won't melt; he extracts Eustace's anti-melting gene, but Courage stops him before he extracts Muriel's. Sure enough, in the end, Eustace melts into a puddle.
  • June 7, 2014
    jormis29
    ^^ Because Trillian was off earth for a lot longer then Dent, the Earth was just thinking of the question when it was blown up.
  • June 8, 2014
    Westrim
    There are definitely plenty of examples now. The description seems fine, but are there any related tropes to add? If not, then add a hat.
  • June 8, 2014
    Generality
    Yet another Futurama:

    • In "The Sting", Professor Farnsworth prepares to test Leela's brain to see if she's sane... by putting her in a guillotine.
    Leela: Professor! Can't you examine my brain without removing it?
    Farnsworth: Yes, easily.
  • June 8, 2014
    Astaroth
    • In The Last Of Us, the Fireflies want to kill and dissect Ellie to see if her immunity to the cordyceps fungus can be adapted into a cure. (Not sure if this should be spoilered)
  • June 8, 2014
    Paradisesnake
    Film - Live-Action
    • X Men Daysof Future Past: After studying Mystique's DNA, Bolivar Trask decides he wants more samples in order to create new kind of technology with Adaptive Abilities. Among the samples he needs are brain tissue, spinal fluid, and bone marrow, implying that, if he got the chance, he would pretty much pick Mystique apart piece by piece.
  • June 10, 2014
    Westrim
    Added new examples. One last bump for description input and hats.
  • June 10, 2014
    DAN004
    What's the current news of the toothpicks ykttw?
  • June 10, 2014
    Westrim
    Dunno. Not watching it, and it's not this trope, though both might go under the same supertrope.
  • August 3, 2014
    Westrim
    Okay, I should have launched this a month and a half ago, but I'll give it one more bump for any more input.
  • August 3, 2014
    Koncur
    It's been many years since I read this one, so my memory's foggy, but:

    • There was an Animorphs book with a race of inbred mutant fish people who wanted to kill the Animorphs with an elaborate machine to get their DNA to increase their gene pool. They aren't interested when it's pointed out that there's easier ways to get a DNA sample.
  • August 3, 2014
    bejjinks
    You must have been reading Accidental Centaurs. It just went on hiatus leaving a cliffhanger about whether Lenny is going to kill Stavvros to get a DNA sample.
  • August 3, 2014
    DAN004
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=abxt86t1202xgzcem0jzzlav