Investigation of Alleged Cadaver Sales From UCLA Medical School Program Criticized
A Superior Court judge and plaintiffs' attorneys are criticizing a University of California-Los Angeles Police Department investigation into the alleged sale of almost 500 cadavers donated to the UCLA School of Medicine's willed-body program in March 2004, the Los Angeles Times reports (Ornstein/Blankstein, Los Angeles Times, 6/29).
According to invoices printed on a UCLA letterhead, Henry Reid, then-director of the school's willed-body program, charged Ernest Nelson $704,600 between 1998 and 2003 for the sale of 496 cadavers donated to the program for medical research. Nelson allegedly sold the body parts to a number of large medical research companies (California Healthline, 3/15/04).
Reid was arrested on suspicion of grand theft, and Nelson was arrested on suspicion of receiving stolen property. Both men have denied the allegations. Neither has been charged and neither is in custody.
Families of those who donated their bodies filed a civil lawsuit against UCLA. Prosecutors in the case have said the court is trying to rush the investigation. Superior Court Judge James Brandlin at a hearing last month agreed to give families' attorneys in the civil trial access to records of the willed-body program, the Times reports.
According to the Times, Brandlin was "incredulous" that prosecutors had only recently begun reviewing the "tens of thousands of documents" collected by the UCLA Police Department.
Mel Sacks, a lawyer for Reid, on Tuesday said there is a conflict of interest with the UCLA Police Department investigating the case because UCLA police officials "will do everything they can to protect the image and reputation of UCLA."
The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office has said the investigation is "on track," according to the Times.
The district attorney's office earlier this year offered to provide help "with all aspects of the UCLA investigation," DA office spokesperson Jane Robison said. She added that the UCLA Police Department was responsible for the case.
In related news, a UCLA medical school official on Tuesday said the university is reorganizing the willed-body program and hiring new staff members in an effort to reopen the program in the fall (Los Angeles Times, 6/29). UCLA in March 2004 announced plans to suspend the program until after the investigation was completed (California Healthline, 3/15/2004).
The university plans to implement a radio frequency transmitter system to track cadavers, according to Allen Nissenson, associate dean for special projects (Los Angeles Times, 6/29).