FETAL TISSUE HEARING: FBI Will Investigate Sales
The FBI in Kansas City, Mo., has launched an investigation into the sales and marketing of fetal tissue used for medical research, the Houston Chronicle reports. The inquiry comes on the heels of a House Commerce subcommittee hearing Thursday during which members called on Attorney General Janet Reno to "open an investigation into the selling of fetal tissue." Jeff Lanza, FBI spokesperson, said, "We are investigating possible criminal violations in the marketing of fetal tissue to determine if there is a violation of federal criminal law" (Houston Chronicle, 3/12). In calling on Reno to look into the matter, committee members cited documents and interviews indicating that a Kansas City-area pathologist may have profited from fetal tissue sales that his firm was under contract to "remove and market to researchers." Pathologist Miles Jones told an ABC undercover reporter that organs such as "livers, hearts and brains are in high demand," claiming that researchers "will pay whatever you ask."
The FBI's health care fraud unit, in cooperation with the U.S. attorney's office in Kansas and Missouri, will investigate potential violations of federal law at an Overland Park, Kansas-based abortion clinic. Under federal law, tissue and organs can only be donated and never sold. The law, however, does permit the charging of "reasonable fees" for the removal and transportation of such tissue. One of the committee's witnesses, medical technician Lawrence Dean Alberty, worked for an organ harvesting firm that was under contract to remove fetal tissue at the Overland Park clinic. In his congressional testimony, Alberty said that he saw twin fetuses used for organ donations that were "moving and breathing," but also admitted he accepted more than $10,000 from an antiabortion group for "secretly gathering information and lying to the group about some of what he witnessed." However, Alberty contends that his testimony on Thursday was truthful (Knight Ridder/Washington Post, 3/12).