University of California Announces Reform Plan Addressing UCLA Willed Body Program
University of California officials on Wednesday announced a reform plan designed to address concerns about the willed body program at the University of California-Los Angeles School of Medicine, which was temporarily closed last year after authorities alleged the director of the program illegally sold cadavers at the school, the Los Angeles Times reports (Ornstein/Trounson, Los Angeles Times, 1/20).
According to invoices printed on UCLA letterhead, Henry Reid, director of the willed body program at UCLA, charged Earnest 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. In March 2004, police arrested Reid for grand theft and Nelson for receipt of stolen property. UCLA announced plans to suspend its willed body program at least until the investigation is completed (California Healthline, 4/14/04).
UCLA faces a number of lawsuits related to the case that have been consolidated and are still in the early stages of litigation. In addition, a report by Navigant Consulting, hired to oversee the reform plan at the program, is expected to be released soon.
Under the reform plan announced Wednesday, UC officials would centralize management of the willed body programs at the system's five medical schools and "significantly strengthen security and record keeping," the Times reports. Specific reforms include:
- Requiring medical schools to implant bar codes or radio frequency identifiers in cadavers and install video cameras at loading docks to monitor after-hours activities involving cadavers;
- Requiring each medical school to create a cadaver anatomic advisory board that would meet annually and consist of an ethicist, a member of the public, campus officials and faculty;
- Requiring UC to establish minimum standards for the willed body programs and hire an official from the Office of the President to oversee the programs; and
- Requiring UC auditors to perform more frequent reviews of the programs to identify problems.
"What we want to do is make it extremely difficult for the problems that have happened in the past to happen in the future. And we believe we have done that," Michael Drake, UC's vice president of health affairs, said.
Mike Arias, an attorney representing plaintiffs in litigation related to the case, said, "I do believe the amount of public attention that this program has been under is really going to force them to do something that is more in line with what the public expects." However, he added, "History tells us that you believe what somebody is going to do based on their past actions. And if you've been bitten a couple times, you have to stay away from that dog" (Los Angeles Times, 1/20).