Thursday, March 11, 2004
Donated cadavers . . . the UCLA saga.
About 10,000 Americans will their bodies to science each year, choosing a path that, in the popular imagination at least, leads to the clinical dignity of the medical school or teaching hospital, where the dead help to unveil the wonders of human anatomy or the mysteries of disease.
Few donors, it is safe to say, imagine the many other ways corpses give their all for science: mangled in automobile crash tests, blown to bits by land mines or cut up with power saws to be shipped in pieces around the country or even abroad. Few see themselves ending up in a row of trunks, limbless and headless, arrayed on gurneys in the ballroom of a resort hotel for a surgical training seminar.
Nor do many people suspect that corpses are precious raw material in a little-known profit-making industry, and that they are worth far more cut up than whole.
A scandal at the cadaver laboratory at the University of California, Los Angeles, has thrown back a heavy curtain that has kept this business largely hidden from public view.
The university suspended its Willed Body Program this week, and university police arrested the program's director and a man the university accuses of trafficking in as many as 800 cadavers in a six-year body-parts-for-profit scheme.
The accused middleman, Ernest V. Nelson, who has cut up and carted away hundreds of cadavers from the U.C.L.A. medical school since 1998, said the university had been fully aware of what he was doing. He transferred the human parts, for sizable fees, to as many as 100 research institutions and private companies, including major companies like Johnson & Johnson, his lawyer said.
Meanwhile, the news over at UCLA only gets worse:
This is not the first time UCLA's cadaver program has been under investigation.(CNN)
Ten years ago, it was accused of mixing medical waste and animal remains with the ashes of human donors -- then disposing of them in a garbage dump, according to the suit.
In 1994, the school entered into a settlement agreement with the California Department of Health Services to restructure the program.