Jul 14, 2023 - Health

Harvard Medical faces another lawsuit over stolen body parts

Harvard Medical School. Photo: Sergi Reboredo/Getty Images

Another family has filed a lawsuit asking for class-action status against Harvard Medical School over the university's role in a ring that allegedly sold human remains on the black market for years.

Why it matters: It's the latest in a string of similar class-action suits against the prestigious school since federal authorities charged its morgue manager with conspiracy and trafficking of stolen goods.

Driving the news: In a suit filed in Suffolk County Superior Court on Thursday, lead plaintiff Anne Weiss claims Harvard failed to protect the dignity of donated remains, including those of her father, a pediatrician who donated his body to the school.

  • Harvard should have prevented Cedric Lodge, the school's morgue manager, from having unfettered access to human remains, Weiss alleges.
  • The school failed to set up "precautions that would have prevented the establishment and operation of a body parts bazaar within their facility," the suit claims.

What they're saying: "This ghoulish black market was allowed to flourish in plain sight operated by [a Harvard Medical School] morgue employee whose lack of respect for the dead was obvious to anyone who scrutinized his behavior," Weiss' suit states.

  • The suit alleges that Lodge sometimes dressed as a 19th-century undertaker and would park his car bearing a "Grim-R" license plate each day in the medical school's lot.

Weiss is seeking damages for the emotional distress she and other families say they suffered as a result of their loved one's bodies being mistreated or sold.

  • When asked for comment, Harvard Medical School referred Axios to a letter from the dean in June.
  • "We are appalled to learn that something so disturbing could happen on our campus — a community dedicated to healing and serving others," George Daley wrote.

Catch up quick: Lodge, 55, and his wife Denise, 63, pleaded not guilty in June after they were indicted with several other defendants by a federal grand jury in Pennsylvania.

  • The couple is accused of stealing and selling donated body parts between 2018 and last year.
  • Lodge managed the morgue of the school's anatomical gifts program and is accused of taking remains to his New Hampshire home to arrange sales to outside buyers.
  • FBI investigators found 40 skulls, as well as spinal cords and bones, in the Kentucky home of James Nott this week, which investigators say may be tied to Lodge's alleged black market scheme.

What we're watching: Harvard Medical School has appointed an external panel to evaluate the anatomical gifts program and the morgue's security policies.

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