Harvard morgue manager was selling body parts
The Harvard morgue manager, Cedric Lodge, has been charged with buying and selling human remains over the internet.
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Florida attorneys have filed a lawsuit against Harvard University and its medical school after federal investigators said the institution’s morgue was at the center of a nationwide scheme in which body parts from donated cadavers were bought and sold.
The litigation was filed Wednesday in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston, Massachusetts on behalf of three families whose deceased loved ones, all of whom died within the last six years, donated their bodies to Harvard for medical research.
The deceased — identified in the complaint as Glenn Wilder Sr., Marshall Jolotta and Joseph Gagne — could have been among those whose remains were pilfered and shipped across the country as part of a macabre black market, the lawsuit alleges.
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The morgue’s former manager, 55-year-old Cedric Lodge, was fired in May from Harvard amid the federal investigation. Lodge, along with his 63-year-old wife Denise Lodge, was among those indicted earlier this month in a U.S. District Court with conspiracy and interstate transport of stolen goods.
Federal investigators tied to the scheme to tens of thousands of dollars and numerous types of human body parts that were exchanged over the course of several years from Harvard Medical School’s morgue and an Arkansas mortuary.
Lodge is accused of using his position to allow customers into the morgue itself to shop among the cadavers and select the body parts — bones, skin, dissected heads and brains— they wished to purchase. Lodge and his wife are then accused of preparing those remains for sale and shipment through the mail from their home in Goffstown, New Hampshire, according to the indictment.
Attorneys with the law firm Morgan & Morgan in Orlando who filed the lawsuit said in a statement provided to USA TODAY that they’re seeking to “fight to hold everyone responsible for this disgrace accountable.”
“When these individuals and their families made the generous and selfless decision to donate their bodies, they trusted their remains would be treated with utmost care, dignity, and respect and that their donations would be used to educate the future generation of doctors and ease the suffering of others,” according to the statement attributed to Morgan & Morgan attorneys John Morgan and Kathryn Barnett. “Now, these families are left to relive the trauma of losing their loved ones and wonder what happened to their remains.”
Morgan and Barnett are representing the families in the litigation along with attorneys Ryan Lang and Garrett Lee.
USA TODAY was unable to immediately reach any family members whose loved ones are named in the lawsuit.
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Harvard: Cedric Lodge acted alone in mortuary scheme
A spokesperson with the Harvard Medical School declined to comment Wednesday when reached by USA TODAY, citing an institutional policy to refrain from commenting on pending litigation. However, leaders of the medical school said in a previous statement that investigators believed that Lodge acted alone without the cooperation of anyone else within the institution.
“We are appalled to learn that something so disturbing could happen on our campus — a community dedicated to healing and serving others,” George Daley, dean of the Faculty of Medicine; and Edward Hundert, dean for Medical Education said in a joint statement. “We have been working with information supplied by federal authorities and examining our own records, particularly the logs showing when donor remains were sent to be cremated and when Lodge was on campus, to try to determine which anatomical donors may have been impacted.”
In accusing Harvard of violating its responsibility to protect the human remains entrusted to it, the lawsuit said that the scandal represents “an unthinkable, unconscionable breach of trust by an institution that holds itself out as the very pinnacle of excellence.” The lawsuit makes allegations of lax policies and procedures on Harvard’s part when it came to safeguarding the donated cadavers and also vetting and hiring staff members such as Lodge, who was hired in 1995.
“Instead of caring properly for and protecting the remains entrusted to them, (Harvard) abandoned them in a facility that was a place of freakish desecration, where,” the lawsuit states, “criminals were allowed to roam and pick over loved ones’ remains for bits like trinkets at a flea market.”
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Those who believe they or someone they know may have been victimized in the scheme can contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Victim and Witness Unit at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 717-614-4249.
Eric Lagatta covers breaking and trending news for USA TODAY. Reach him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @EricLagatta.
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