UCI CADAVER SCANDAL: Relative of Donor Files Suit
The son of a deceased woman who donated her body to the University of California-Irvine has sued the university over allegations that the director of the school's Willed Body Program "sold body parts and failed to properly dispose of remains." Robert Simpson filed the suit to determine what happened to the body of his mother, who died in March, according to his attorney, Frederico Sayre. "I don't have evidence either way about what happened to her remains," said Sayre. He said he will ask a judge to grant class-action status to the suit, so that other families with similar concerns may have access to information. "As part of this, we want to develop a (legal) remedy for others," he said (AP/Contra Costa Times, 9/28). Simpson said, "We don't know what's happened -- that's what prompted me to file a lawsuit. I don't know if her body was split up, parts sold here and there. They're supposed to be cremating remains when they're done using her body and scattering them (at sea) or returning them. But how will I ever know it's her? Or if it's parts of her and someone else? ... I feel like I've betrayed her." On the merits of the claim, Alan Calnan, a professor at Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles, said, "I don't think the claim itself is shaky. The mishandling of corpses is a long-standing, well-recognized doctrine for sustaining claims of emotional distress." But, he added, "It sounds like the underlying facts of this case are still questionable" (Folmar, Los Angeles Times, 9/28).
Conflict of Interest Alleged
Further deepening the scandal, university officials have learned that the Willed Body Program did business with the wife of Christopher Brown, the since-fired program director. Richard Robertson, chair of the school's department of anatomy and neurobiology, said Brown gave business repairing skeletons to Osteoplastics, a business owned by Brown's wife and operating out of their Tustin condominium. Defending the couple, attorney Stephen Solomon said they may sue UCI for defamation. "All I can tell you is that the university is going to end up paying a lot of money to that young man," he said (Leonard, Los Angeles Times, 9/25). He added, "My clients have been substantially injured by a lot of misinformation" (Larsen/Orshorski, Orange County Register, 9/26).