Plaintiffs say university failed to properly guard bodies of relatives that had been donated for scientific research
Harvard Medical School is facing a class action lawsuit over allegations that it failed to properly safeguard cadavers donated to it for medical research.
The lawsuit comes in the wake of a federal indictment charging the former manager of the school’s morgue and his wife with parts from bodies before they were cremated and selling them to two Pennsylvania residents and a Massachusetts resident from 2018 through August of 2022.
Plaintiffs in the suit include relatives of the people whose bodies were allegedly stolen. They claim they have suffered emotional distress as a result of the alleged sales.
“Medical schools like Harvard have a duty to ensure [donated remains] are handled properly and with decency and to ensure they are used for their intended purpose of scientific study,” Jeff Catalano, JD, an attorney representing the plaintiffs said in a written statement.
According to the statement, Massachusetts law allows for recovery of emotional damages when family members are traumatized by the death of a loved one experience serious mental anguish caused by harm to the decedent’s remains resulting from the breach of that duty.
The indictment charges Cedric Lodge, the former morgue manager, and his wife Denise with stealing dissected parts of donated cadavers for sale to Katrina Maclean of Salem, Mass. Maclean then allegedly sold them to Pennsylvania residents Joshua Taylor and Jeremy Pauley. It also alleges that Lodge sometimes allowed Maclean and Taylor to come to the morgue to choose parts they wanted. Lodge was fired May 6 of this year.
Maclean owns Cat’s Creepy Creations, an artisan studio and doll store in Peabody, Mass. that, according to its Facebook page, sells items of "horror, macabre, oddities, and everything creepy."
In a written statement at the time of the indictment George Q. Daley, MD, dean of the faculty of medicine and Edward M. Hundert, MD, dean for medical education at Harvard Medical School said, “We are appalled to learn that something so disturbing could happen on our campus — a community dedicated to healing and serving others. The reported incidents are a betrayal of HMS and, most importantly, each of the individuals who altruistically chose to will their bodies to HMS through the Anatomical Gift Program to advance medical education and research.”
If convicted, the defendants face maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.