WILLED BODY PROGRAMS: Fallout from UCI Investigation
The Willed Body Program at the University of California-Irvine is already feeling the repercussions of a fraud investigation announced Friday, the Los Angeles Times reports, as at least one person on the donation list has called to remove their name. Willed body program officials at roughly 100 universities throughout the country expressed concern that the scandal's "negative publicity ... could hamper donations to a vital medical service." Willed Body Programs are the "relatively unknown organizations" that grant medical and anatomy students hands-on learning by providing them with cadavers that have been bequeathed to the programs by people interested in supporting medical research. Once the cadavers have been used, they are cremated and the remains typically scattered at sea or returned to the family for a charge; though UCI's allegations against recently dismissed program director Christopher Brown suggest he may have sold body parts for personal financial gain. The Times reveals another discrepancy as well: Directors at other programs observed that the $600 "handling and processing fee" charged by UCI is "unheard of," but university officials said it doesn't even cover the program's costs. It's too soon to tell what the impact of the UCI investigation will be on other programs, said Tony Mazzaschi, assistant vice president for biomedical research at the Association of American Medical Colleges. He said, "Depending on how UC Irvine handles the scandal, Willed Body Programs could either be enhanced or hampered" (Folmar, 9/21).
Web Site Offers Glimpse of Fraud
Richard Robertson, chair of the department that supervises UCI's Willed Body Program, said his initial tip-off to possible underhanded dealings in the program came from an Internet site he encountered for a local "private learning center," Replica Notes, that touted an anatomy course featuring human cadavers. As the use of bodies in anatomy courses in generally limited to higher learning institutions, Robertson investigated the program and identified UCI as the program's supplier. This "macabre" discovery, coupled with concerns stemming from a routine audit, prompted the current investigation, though incomplete records have not yielded any indication that UCI supplied bodies to Replica Notes. Investigators are also questioning whether Brown and Replica Notes owner Jeffrey Frazier held financial interests in two transportation companies that contracted with the UCI program (Leonard, Los Angeles Times, 9/21).