Three Massachusetts families accused Harvard Medical School of abandoning the donated bodies of their loved ones at a «monstrous desecration site» where they said the body parts were picked up «like trinkets at a flea market,» according to a class action lawsuit filed Wednesday. .
Glenn Wilder, Jeanine Cunningham and Pamela Bishop said they trusted Harvard to care for their relatives, but were «shocked and devastated» when they learned earlier this month that the bodies had allegedly been stolen in a burglary ring at the morgue at the school in Boston and then cut. up and sold illegally.
Morgue manager Cedric Lodge, his wife and several others have been accused for trafficking in stolen human remains.
The lawsuit said that instead of caring for the remains, Harvard “abandoned them in a facility that was a monstrous desecration site, where, according to the allegations, criminals were allowed to roam and collect the remains of their loved ones in search of of trinkets. in a flea market.
It also accuses the school of having lax policies and failing to properly select and supervise its staff.
“When these individuals and their families made the generous and selfless decision to donate their bodies, they trusted that their remains would be treated with the utmost care, dignity and respect and that their donations would be used to educate the future generation of physicians and alleviate suffering. others,» attorneys John Morgan and Kathryn Barnett said in a joint statement. «Now these families must relive the trauma of losing their loved ones and wonder what happened to their remains.»
Harvard Medical School said in a statement Thursday that it does not comment on pending or ongoing litigation. in a statement of June 14the dean said they were «appalled to learn that something so unsettling could happen on our campus, a community dedicated to healing and serving others.»
Wilder’s father, Glenn Wilder Sr., had told his family that he wanted his remains donated to the school’s Anatomical Gift Program «for the greater good,» the lawsuit says. The family granted his wish following his death on June 1, 2019.
«While dying of lung cancer, Glenn Sr. told the family that through this gift, he hoped he could save someone else from the kind of suffering he was enduring,» the lawsuit states. «Glenn, Sr. believed that Harvard was ‘the bastion of excellence’ and that the defendants would treat his remains with the utmost respect, while maximizing the educational, medical, and scientific benefit that his remains could bestow.»
Harvard had the remains for nearly two years before returning what the school said were her ashes, according to the lawsuit.
Cunningham and his four siblings said they donated the remains of their father, Marshall Jolotta, after he died on November 25, 2017, according to the lawsuit.
Jolotta «felt that through this generous gift, she could help others, and she wanted to help make young doctors better,» she said.
Harvard had the remains for nearly two years before returning the ashes to the family.
Bishop also donated the remains of her father, Joseph Gagne, after he died on June 4, 2018. She and her sister said in the lawsuit that Gagne wanted to be donated to the program «for the good of all.»
«It was important to him that he be able, with his last and generous act, to help new doctors, be a part of the education of medical students, and provide what help he could for the good of all,» the lawsuit says.
His remains were kept at the school for about a year before his ashes were returned to the family.
Lodge, the morgue manager, is accused of stealing organs and other body parts ahead of scheduled cremations and transporting them to his home in Goffstown, New Hampshire, federal prosecutors said in a statement. statement. Lodge and his wife, Denise Lodge, allegedly sold the remains to Katrina Maclean, Joshua Taylor and others, according to the statement. All are included in the federal indictment, along with another man, Mathew Lampi.
A sixth person, Jeremy Pauley, was charged with criminal information, prosecutors said. Another woman involved in the scheme, Candace Chapman Scott, was previously charged in Arkansas.
Prosecutors said Cedric Lodge sometimes allowed Maclean and Taylor to go to the morgue and «examine the corpses to choose what to buy.» He and his wife allegedly also sent remains to Taylor and others out of state.
Taylor allegedly took some of the stolen remains to Pennsylvania, where he lives, prosecutors said. He and Maclean resold the remains for a profit, according to prosecutors. Pauley allegedly purchased the remains from Taylor, Maclean and Scott, who is accused of stealing remains from an Arkansas mortuary and crematorium where she worked, according to the statement.
Prosecutors also accused Pauley of reselling the remains he bought from Lampi and others.
An attorney for Taylor previously declined to comment on the allegations. Lawyers for the other defendants have not responded to repeated requests for comment.
The 15-page indictment does not go into extensive detail about what the body parts were purchased for, but alleges that Maclean shipped human skin to a man in Pennsylvania «and engaged his services to tan the skin to create leather.» It also mentions a payment from Taylor that had the memo, «head number 7» and a separate transaction for «brains.»
Lawyers for the affected families said in their joint statement that they want to «hold all those responsible for this misfortune accountable.»